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A comparison of all my IEMs NOW WITH REVIEW:-)! W3, Sennheiser IE8, UE10 pro, SE530, ER4P, Triple...

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Moderator note: This thread can also be found in our Featured Full Review forum:
http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f13/co...xs-etc-399799/


Well today I went to B&H photo video and purchased the Sennheiser IE8. I must say my immediate reaction is that I'm very pleased with them.

I would like to give back to the Head-fi community for all the help they've provided me with my purchases, by doing a long extensive comparative review of all the IEMs I own.

This would include (listed in order of price not necessarily quality):

Ultimate Ears UE10 pro
Sensaphonics 2XS
Sennheiser IE8
Shure SE530
Westone 3
Ultimate Ears Triple Fi
Sony EX700
Westone UM2
Shure SE420
Etymotic ER4P

I want to give myself at least a few more days to become acquainted with the IE8 before I make any major judgments. I also have only had the Westone 3 for hardly a month and do not have any final opinions on them.

I will try to get an extensive review up on head-fi by the end of this week. Please feel free to comment here if you have any immediate questions. I'd be happy to answer them.

Being that the Sennheiser are dynamic drivers I do feel it would be appropriate to allow them to burn in at least 100 hours before I make the final review. I recall the Sony Ex700 also changed after burn in.

I look forward to sharing my impressions here and hearing your impressions of the above listed IEMs as well.

My Review

When I first became a member of head-Fi about 18 months ago, I had been a long time user of headphones and was a recording engineer for some time. The thing which Head-Fi and Headphone.com really did introduce to me was twofold.......the concept of the portable headphone amp and the high quality in-ear-monitor....IEM for short. I read Headroom's review of the UE10 (this is before the UE11 was available) and was positive I had to get a pair. I even experimented with the Shure E500s (now SE530s) for a few days before I decided that if this were 500 dollars, imagine what the 900 dollar custom product would sound like and I returned the E500s and ventured out in to custom headphone land:-).

When I received my UE10s in June of 2007 (in fact I still may not have been a head-fi member yet, but I was reading the forum regularly), I was blown away by the sound quality. They did sound better to me than the E500s did and I was convinced that the price was worth it and the custom design had a lot to do with the fact that it was better. One thing which quickly became a problem was the hard acrylic shell of the UE10s was simply not comfortable for me. I attempted 8 COUNT THEM 8 refits before Ultimate Ears decided that I was unpleasable and wanted to cut their losses. Instead of this, I decided to keep the UE10s as is and live with them and their mediocre fit. There were days the UE10s would fit almost perfectly, but the hard acrylic design never gave way to the subtle changes why ear canal would actually make on a daily basis and I decided that the hard acrylic was simply never going to work for me. This is the exact reason I never acquired a UE11. If you are able to achieve a stunning fit with the UE10 or UE11 I am convinced there is hardly anything better in this world for portable listening. That being said, I do see some immediate problems with custom fit IEMs in general. It's not a small matter to me: when walking with a custom fitted IEM in your ear the hard shell moves ever so slightly effecting the sound quality, sometimes by lessening the highs or sucking out the midrange. This issue is not unique to me as I have confirmed it with several custom IEMs owners. One advantage of a foam sleeve is that its very "generous" at allowing for slight changes in the ear canal. This prevents audible changes in the sound of the IEM from occurring during movement. Another advantage of foam sleeves is that they are simply more comfortable by nature and I am personally convinced that this would have to be the case with anybody, no matter how good their fit is.

So anyway.......I decided custom designed IEMs had to be the only way to go and quickly (extracting from my savings) purchased a Sensaphonics 2Xs....a dual driver monitor which was enclosed in a softer flexible shell. In terms of fit, this monitor was superior in every way. Far more comfortable, but at the same time, occasionally altered sound during extensive movement. But I never bothered trying to live with the problem because the sound quality was so SO PITIFUL. More on this later! But anyway, because the sound quality was so poor to my ears, I learned very quickly that custom designed monitors were NOT the reason for high quality sound production, and that it just so happened the UE10s consisted of a very well balanced combination of armature drivers......in other words, if these drivers had been used in a Universal design and a good seal was achieved, then the sound quality delivered would have probably been on par with its custom counterpart. NOTE: The Triple Fis are NOT the same exact driver combo as the UE10, though are similar in many aspects.

Following these events, I purchased another Shure SE530 and also the Etymotic ER4P which I had heard previously from a friend. My immediate impression of the Shure SE530 was that they were so much better with the new olive foams that were not included with the E500. They still were not in my opinion as enjoyable as the UE10 pro. The ER4P was another story. I think the IEM is very VERY good, but it did not provide a complete sound picture for all intents and purposes. The bass is simply too recessed on the ER4P for me to place it as high as the UE10 or SE530. I think for some chamber music where bass response is not even a part of the sound picture, the ER4P is hard to beat, but again, this is a limited arena for a headphone to claim kingship.

My restless interest with IEMs caused me to go out and get the UM2 and Triple Fis shortly after this. The UM2 sounded very visceral to me, a bit too much so. The Triple Fis had a very pleasant sound except the ergonomic design was the worst I'd ever seen for a universal monitor and definitely showed (in my opinion) that Ultimate Ears was a newcomer to design in comparison with Shure, Westone and Etymotic. I bought a Shure SE420 for my brother which he still uses. To me there are simply no improvements with this IEM in comparison with its more expensive sibling.

I purchased the Sony Ex700LP some time later and my immediate impression of them is that possessed a very UNIQUE soundstage. The sound stage was rather large for an IEM, however the imaging was extremely limited. Picture the inside of a protractor as the soundstage, except imagine that you literally could only hear sound at 0 degrees, 90 degrees and 180 degrees. In other words instruments feel disconnected from another and very separated. This can be interesting if you are listening critically, but eventually caused me great headaches as the music never seemed to mesh into itself. Get what I'm saying? However, I never bothered crossfeeding them with an amplifier because I never loved the fit of the Sonys and I never thought much of their isolation abilities which is very important to me when using IEMs.

This brings me to my two most recent purchases and I'm assuming the two IEMs which most will be interested on the date which I post this.....the Sennheiser IE8 and the Westone 3. I purchased the two IEMs exactly one week apart, the Westone 3s were purchased first. I must say they are easily the two most readily enjoyable universals I've heard. The only other universal which I rank alongside is the Shure SE530 except that the Shure S530 has ultimately greater perceivable shortcomings.....In the rest of this review I will rate each IEM separately borrowing some criteria from one of my favorite sites to visit Headphonereviews.org

Ultimate Ears UE10 PRO
Bass impact: 7
Bass extension: 9
Bass quality: 8
Mids quality: 9
Highs quality: 9
Highs extension: 8
Details: 9
Transparency: 9
Comfort: 5
Isolation: 9
Soundstage: 7
Imaging ability: 9
Handling of Microphonics: 9
Handling of Sibilance: 7
Cable Quality and Design: 10
Ergonomic Design: 10
How it looks in the ear: 8
Improvement with amplification: 7
Additional Features and Accessories: 9
Overall durability of IEM: 8
Driver design: Three balanced armature drivers

Thoughts about the UE10: For sheer neutrality the UE10 is unbeatable in the IEM category and is only outclassed by my headphones when comparing it to my Bass Heavier R10s which are by the far the greatest headphones I've ever heard. In terms of frequency response only, the UE10 are either my favorite or second favorite IEM. The comfort and soundstage has been bested by other IEMs. If you have dealt with hard acrylic shells in your ears before then I say go for these or the UE11s. I am convinced the UE11s are not necessarily better, but I have not heard them. The cable design of this IEM is not yet bested. These IEMs come with the usual headphone jack, carrying case, and cleaning tool. One nice additive was that the whole ensemble is enclosed in a large metallic case with your name on it and your initials on the monitor. The addition of the option of customized art on the IEM is a plus but ultimately unimportant. The cable is extremely strong, does not get tangled or kinked, has memory wire, and most importantly is replaceable. I actually once dropped the IEMs while exiting a cab and broke the right canal piece where upon I was devastated, except Ultimate Ears very awesomely repaired the damage. In this sense I cannot give the IEMs a perfect score on durability as the drop was nothing significant, in fact I was shocked that they broke. However Ultimate Ears is an awesome company and will repair the damage under warranty. My final thought about the UE10 though is that it is simply unreasonably expensive considering that I think their are universals out there which sound about as good at half the price and hastle (hastle meaning audiologist appointments and possible refits).

The UE10 sounds best with: Classical, Rock, Jazz, Electronic.....basically anything really......it's rather neutral so it makes anything sound transparent and alive, though it does not seem to have an exciting place of "specialty" such as other IEMs which you will read below.


SENSAPHONICS 2XS
Bass impact: 5
Bass extension: 5
Bass quality: 4
Mids quality: 6
Highs quality: 3
Highs extension: 5
Details: 7
Transparency: 2
Comfort: 8
Isolation: 10
Soundstage: 5
Imaging ability: 4
Handling of Microphonics: 7
Handling of Sibilance: 2
Cable Quality and Design: 4
Ergonomic Design: 10
How it looks in the ear: 8
Improvement with amplification: 3
Additional Features and accessories: 7
Overall durability of IEM: 7
Driver design: Two balanced armature drivers


Thoughts about the 2XS:
As you can see I truly did not like this IEM so I am not going to waste time writing much about it other than that it is least transparent headphone I have ever heard for over 20 dollars. It is extremely shrill and sibilant and makes even the most enjoyable music not all too enjoyable. The comfort is a significant improvement for a custom design granted its soft silicon shell. If comfort is simply key to you and you MUST have a custom IEM you may want to consider these, though I can't imagine why.

The 2XS sounds best with: NOTHING! No matter what you throw at it, I feel it brings out the worst in the music. I will go on record hear as saying I personally enjoy the sound of the stock iPod earbuds over these 700 dollar IEMs. What a waste, horrible waste! I instantly hated these headphones, did not even take 3 seconds for me to decide that the sound signature of these headphones were unEQable and unfixable with amplification.



SHURE SE530 (E500)
Bass impact: 7
Bass extension: 7
Bass quality: 9
Mids quality: 10
Highs quality: 8
Highs extension: 6
Details: 7
Transparency: 8
Comfort: 9
Isolation: 9
Soundstage: 8
Imaging ability: 7
Handling of Microphonics: 9
Handling of Sibilance: 9
Cable Quality and Design: 6
Ergonomic Design: 9
How it looks in the ear: 9
Improvement with amplification: 8
Additional Features and accesories: 10
Overall durability of IEM: 9
Driver Design: Three balanced armature drivers

Thoughts about the SE530: The SE530s are a unique beast. They don't do EVERYTHING well, but what they do really really well they're almost unbeatable in. They have a very WET and smooth response. The sound is extremely laidback and similar to the Sennheiser HD650. One thing the HD650 has which the SE530 does not is a very important treble extension which helps provide air around instruments. However, I feel for a laidback and nerve-free music listen, the Shures are great.....and non fatiguing. Very very comfortable with their olive foams...I usually use the medium sized foams. Do not cram these up in your canal, just leave at the canal entrance. It is more comfortable this way and the isolation is pretty much the same once you learn how to do it well. The sound of the SE530 usually puts a smile on my face unless I need a very forward and airy listen....specifically classical music needs this attribute in order for it to satisfy me. The details when using the SE530 often get a bit "smeared" in the smoothness of the sound. This can be beautiful and musical or annoying depending on what you're looking for. Extra features which are available to the SE530s are unbeatable in my opinion! You have the option of having your SE530 iPhone read as the cable is detachable MIDWAY through the extension of the cable itself. The cable quality would have been rated higher had the cables been user replaceable and included a memory wire. You also have the option of a Push to Hear device which I don't think is too useful. It essentially is a pocket size microphone which can be connected to the cable for hearing outside noise. The ergonomic design of these IEMs are probably my overall favorite of the universal monitors. I always found it very intuitive getting these puppies into my ears. I think that's the sign of a great ergonomic design.

The SE530s sound best with: Jazz and Rock. To my ears the SE530s are very luscious sounding and take off the burn of constant cymbal crashing and ANNOYING bright mastering. They are the most forgiving of all high priced IEMs I have heard. This means they make even poor recordings have a place in this world. You may not catch every detail with these, but its beautiful midrange allows for a very spiritual listen. I think for jazz, these may be my favorite IEM. I love also listening to older mono recordings with these IEMs. I feel the sound lends itself to a very natural, analog sounding experience.



Ultimate Ears Triple Fi 10 Pro
Bass impact: 8
Bass extension: 8
Bass quality: 8
Mids quality: 8
Highs quality: 9
Highs extension: 8
Details: 8
Transparency: 8
Comfort: 7
Isolation: 8
Soundstage: 7
Imaging ability: 7
Handling of Microphonics: 9
Handling of Sibilance: 7
Cable Quality and Design: 9
Ergonomic Design: 4
How it looks in the ear: 4
Improvement with amplification: 8
Additional Features and accesories: 7
Overall durability of IEM: 9
Driver Design: Three balanced armature drivers

Thoughts about the Triple Fis: Think of the Triple Fis as a less transparent UE10 with added bass and even a little added treble. Depending on the sleeve I use with the Triple Fis I was able to attain a tremendous amount of bass impact. Sometimes this bass impact overshadowed the details and the highs and it felt very unnatural. The ergonomic design here is very poor and does not lend itself to my ear (I have medium to large ears) very well. When achieving a fit, which is not often I find that Triple Fis have a very awesome sound, but a slightly narrow soundstage in comparison to the UE10s. The SE530s has an equally narrow soundstage yet the SE530s seems more natural to me because the Triple Fi's has a treble presence which screams for a larger amount of space. Instrument separation is very good with the Triple Fis. It may be wrong of me, but because I know these monitors are the "consumer" version of the UE10, I probably don't give it its fair due when regarding its sound quality. I think its about 80% as good as the UE10 with regard to sound quality alone. The detachable cable including memory wire is awesome. You can also upgrade this to iPhone capability. I think the stock sleeves which the Triple Fis are sold with are hideous considering the amount of money you're paying: Silicon sleeves which don't lend itself to movement very well and foam sleeves of just one size and very poorly made. In fact the first time I use the stock foam sleeves the sleeve broke in my ear, where the foam somehow maneuvered off the inner plastic with which its glued onto and got stuck in my ear. I tried all these different experiments with the Triple Fis......wearing the IEMs backwards with a switched cable assignment (meaning left cable was attached to right ear piece and vice versa). I even tried putting the Shure Olive foams on the Triple Fis, a real hastle, and then of course I tried the Comply sleeves made for the triple fis. At the end of the long experiments I determined that the ergonomic design would NEVER allow me to benefit greatly from the quality drivers inside the monitor itself. A real shame.

The Triple Fi's sound best with Classical, Rock, Jazz.......Most of what I've thrown at the Triple Fi's when I have a good fit sounds rather good. I almost forget how the UE10s can sound superior when I'm really enjoying myself with these, but ultimately I remember.......they are just ever so slightly crisp and can fatigue after long listens. But this is to be expected with a lively IEM



Etymotic ER4P
Bass impact: 3
Bass extension: 5
Bass quality: 6
Mids quality: 7
Highs quality: 9
Highs extension: 8
Details: 8
Transparency: 6
Comfort: 5
Isolation: 9
Soundstage: 6
Imaging ability: 5
Handling of Microphonics: 4
Handling of Sibilance: 6
Cable Quality and Design: 5
Ergonomic Design: 5
How it looks in the ear: 9
Improvement with amplification: 9
Additional Features and accesories: 7
Overall durability of IEM: 6
Driver Design: One balanced Armature Driver


Thoughts about the ER4P: My main reason for buying these was because classical music lovers tend to worship the accuracy and transparency of these IEMs, which I believe are the oldest IEMs still being made. I love classical music and it easily consumes about half of the amount of time I spend listening to music. I feel the ER4P does really nice things with classical music......but ultimately you are very aware in every sense (meaning comfort and sound) that you have headphones in your ears. The lack of bass impact eventually becomes annoying (to me anyway). The details are pretty good here, but I was honestly expecting more since some people refer to them as the kings of detail. I have even heard them compared to R10s (from a person who owned both). This is simply untrue to my ears anyway. The ER4P's ergonomic design lends itself to some microphonic problems as the cable is not design to wrap around the ear. Also the cable is just not so comfortable hanging out of your ear straight down. Since this IEM was rather early in the evolution of IEM design, I think Etymotic should and will eventually make some improvements to this rather old fashioned microphonic and ergonomic shortcoming. It may not be for a while though that they improve this aspect of their IEMs because the ER4P is such a standard and has been for years.

The ER4P sounds best with: Classical.....plain and simple. It doesn't suit any other style of music at all in my opinion. It lacks any visceral punch in the lower region to give anything particularly credible to another genre of music. Orchestral works don't sound too brilliant to me with these anyway. I feel like the UE10s are a substantial improvement upon the ER4P while still maintaining clarity and detail like these.



Westone UM2
Bass impact: 9
Bass extension: 8
Bass quality: 7
Mids quality: 8
Highs quality: 7
Highs extension: 7
Details: 7
Transparency: 7
Comfort: 9
Isolation: 9
Soundstage: 6
Imaging ability: 6
Handling of Microphonics: 9
Handling of Sibilance: 8
Cable Quality and Design: 8
Ergonomic Design: 9
How it looks in the ear: 8
Improvement with amplification: 6
Additional Features and accesories: 5
Overall durability of IEM: 7
Driver Design: Two balanced Armature Drivers

Thoughts about the UM2: The UM2s often get compared to the SE530 and Triple Fis.....I remember before the Westone 3s came out those were considered the 3 most eagerly talked about Universal IEMs. In terms of sound reproduction alone it does not challenge the SE530 or Triple Fis. It is simply too warm and "fun" to be a contender for a reference IEM. That being said I think the design is very comfortable and the braided cable is great because it doesnt kink or tangle easily.

The UM2s sound the best with Rap and Hip Hop. For Rap and Hip Hop I suppose these are a top IEM choice because the bass impact is so visceral and will lend itself to an enjoyable experience with those genres. Those genres are not really my expertise area, but I have listened many a time to R&B and hip hop with these IEMs and was really thrilled with the results. I don't feel these handle Rock or Jazz quite as well as some of the others, and classical is a bloody warm mess with these in my opinion


[B]SHURE SE420[/B]
Bass impact: 5
Bass extension: 6
Bass quality: 7
Mids quality: 8
Highs quality: 7
Highs extension: 6
Details: 6
Transparency: 6
Comfort: 9
Isolation: 9
Soundstage: 5
Imaging ability: 5
Handling of Microphonics: 9
Handling of Sibilance: 8
Cable Quality and Design: 9
Ergonomic Design: 9
How it looks in the ear: 9
Improvement with amplification: 6
Additional Features and accesories: 10
Overall durability of IEM: 9
Driver Design: Two balanced Armature Drivers

Thoughts about the SE420 I can only see one reason for buying the SE420 and it isn't its sound. If you like the Shure sound signature or special features like optional iPhone compatibility and cannot afford the SE530, then the SE420 would be for you. I still think the UM2 which are also a dual driver IEM are superior sounding and if your price range only allows you to buy a dual driver the UM2 is your best bet. With the exception of the PTH feature (which you can buy separately anyway) the SE420 has the same features and accessories as the SE530. The ergonomic design while slightly different is just as intuitive to me.

The SE420 sounds best with everything the SE530 sounds best with, but not nearly as good at it.



Sony EX700
Bass impact: 7
Bass extension: 7
Bass quality: 7
Mids quality: 8
Highs quality: 6
Highs extension: 8
Details: 6
Transparency: 7
Comfort: 5
Isolation: 3
Soundstage: 8
Imaging ability: 2
Handling of Microphonics: 4
Handling of Sibilance: 6
Cable Quality and Design: 2
Ergonomic Design: 5
How it looks in the ear: 6
Improvement with amplification: 7
Additional Features and accesories: 4
Overall durability of IEM: 3
Driver Design: One Dynamic Driver

Thoughts about the Ex700 I was excited about these when I bought them because they were unique in that they were Dynamic driver IEMs rather than armature. Needless to say, it's cable design, and isolation/ergonomic design was so flawed that the sound quality (which I thought was above average) quickly became meaningless to me. If the IEM does not provide isolation then the sound quality quickly becomes irrelevant since IEMs are used on the go mostly and often in noisy environments. The cable was a disgrace, very flimsy and worst of J shaped rather than Y shaped. Sony definitely has potential here to eventually become a competitor, but they aren't yet. On the merits of Sound quality alone this was a good IEM, but a poor investment overall.

The Ex700 sounds best with just about anything, but there were no standouts. The imaging of these particular IEMs were extremely frustrating to me and I feel the lack of its ability to image well had a lot to do with the ergonomic design. Picture a rather large soundscape with a very plain imaging ability. The specific placements either feel dead left, dead center or dead right to me. This caused actual headaches for me.



Westone 3
Bass impact: 9
Bass extension: 9
Bass quality: 9
Mids quality: 9
Highs quality: 9
Highs extension: 9
Details: 9
Transparency: 10
Comfort: 9
Isolation: 9
Soundstage: 8
Imaging ability: 8
Handling of Microphonics: 10
Handling of Sibilance: 8
Cable Quality and Design: 8
Ergonomic Design: 9
How it looks in the ear: 8
Improvement with amplification: 9
Additional Features and accesories: 7
Overall durability of IEM: 8 (I've only had it the IEM for 2 months so this is suggestive)
Driver Design: Three Balanced Armature Drivers

Thoughts about the Westone 3 While I feel the Shure SE530s provide a very spiritual laidback listen, the Westone 3s are my pick for the best sounding Universal IEM I've heard in terms of FREQUENCY RESPONSE alone. In fact in 90% of circumstances I can't imagine any other IEM being challenged as of the date I post this. It's bass extension and impact is natural, visceral (at times can be overpowering to the midrange but is fixable with amplification).....Please do not think the bass of the W3s is a major annoyance without amplification, I'm really nitpicking here. The W3s has a midrange which is only surpassed by the Shures, but makes up for it with superior highs and more visceral bass impact. The Westone 3s sound like a better controlled and more ergonomically savvy version of the Triple Fis. However, it goes further than that because when I compare my Westone 3s and UE10s back to back I usually prefer my Westone 3s!!! Yes, you read that right. There is a transparency here which is on par with the UE10s, but maybe the Westones 3s has a bit more magic to offer because it's still neutral while maintaining more guts in the lower region and even more sparkle in the highs than the UE10. I laughed when I read that iLounge found the SE530s to have more treble than the W3s. Someone who makes this false observation should not be doing headphone reviews in my opinion. It doesn't matter if their fit impacted their listen because the W3s are so clearly more extended in the treble region than the SE530s that a simple display of a few test tones above 12Khz proves that you hear frequencies with the W3s that are simply inaudible with the SE530s. I suppose because they are all 3way balanced armature driver monitors that we will see the SE530s, Triple Fis and Westone 3s compared and disputed for some time now. I'm giving my objective opinion here that there is very little to contest, the SE530s are magical within a very narrow region of music and are extremely comfortable. The Triple Fi's are the least transparent of the bunch (to me) and have an ergonomic flaw, but still are very detailed, but the Westone 3s are transparent, are ergonomically brilliant and extremely comfortable. I wish the braided cable which happens to be very good, was detachable so that the cable was user replaceable and also so that the IEMs would be iPhone compatible. This is a very minor issue for me because the cable seems sturdy, basically is the same as the UM2 cable but with a more ambitious rubbery mask around where it connects to the IEM earpiece. I am using the regular sized comply tip with these by the way, but there is an option for an installable vinyl custom sleeve known as the UM56 made by Westone themselves. This may be of interest to you if you want to experience a custom-like feeling. It has also been remarked that the sound changes ever so slightly with this fit. The UM56 is also useable on all Shure and Westone monitors. I should also mention here that Sensaphonics also makes custom sleeves for numerous IEMs mentioned and I happened to find their material to be very comfortable so that may be worth looking into

The Westone 3 sounds best with ANYTHING. But let me say i feel it is hardest to sound great with classical music. This monitor sounds great with classical music. Why do I make this remark about it being difficult to sound great with classical? Because, classical is the genre which inherently lends itself the least to electronic interference such as recording studios, mixing, and obviously electronic instruments. It is very difficult for a headphone or speaker to replicate true acoustic simulation as well as it is to replicate fun studio trickery such as Dark Side Of The Moon.....Come on folks, Dark Side Of The Moon sounds pretty darn good on any headphone because its designed that way. Of course there are still better headphones for that purpose anyway. When an orchestra kicks in with 100 instruments playing at once detail is pertinent to the experience. The Westone 3 is pretty much up to the challenge. The sound stage however is narrower than I wish which is the only real criticism of the sound that I have. The Westone 3s sound amazing with Rock and jazz and electronic.....its just an incredible IEM. Simply incredible. And yes, in my opinion, as good or better than the UE10 Pro on the sound merits alone. Add the comfort aspect and there is simply no reason to even consider the UE10 pro, in my opinion.



Sennheiser IE8
Bass impact: 10
Bass extension: 10
Bass quality: 10
Mids quality: 9
Highs quality: 7
Highs extension: 10
Details: 10
Transparency: 8
Comfort: 9
Isolation: 8
Soundstage: 10
Imaging ability: 10
Handling of Microphonics: 10
Handling of Sibilance: 8
Cable Quality and Design: 10
Ergonomic Design: 9
How it looks in the ear: 9
Improvement with amplification: 9
Additional Features and accesories: 10
Overall durability of IEM: 9 (I've only had it the IEM for 2 months so this is suggestive)
Driver Design: One Dynamic Driver

Thoughts about the IE8: Let me say here I purchased the W3 and IE8 a week apart. I've been getting to know both at the same time. My IE8 has about 100 hours of pink noise burn in on it, something that isn't necessary with Armature driver IEMs. OK I will address here a question that a lot of people are going to immediately want to know. Which IEM do I personally prefer the Westone 3 or the Sennheiser IE8? My answer to that is simple but complex at the same time. I personally have come to prefer the sound quality of the Westone 3 by a very small margin. HOWEVER, this is because I find the Westone 3 to be slightly more transparent with regard to frequency response. The Sennheiser is not a slouch in this area, but at the same time has an unparalleled ability to provide a wide soundscape and realistic imagery. So why did I choose the Westone 3? Frequency response is slightly more important to me than Soundstage and imaging ability. With this in mind I do feel the Westone 3 is preferable in most circumstances. What are the problems I have with the Sennheiser IE8's sound? Very little. First let me say, I've said in other threads, that the IE8's sound reproduction is unlike any other IEM I've heard. The placement of instruments is very realistic and this is achieved by a perceivable amount of air around the instruments. It truly is a breath taking experience if you've never heard an IEM do this before. I hadn't before I heard the IE8. My issue with the IE8's sound is that while the air provides major benefits, the treble response at times can detract from the transparency of the music. I sometimes find the treble to possess a bit of "grain" as they say and even at time I would say there are moments of shrillness. Notice I say MOMENTS, it's not constantly shrill. These are the most sensitive IEMs I've ever heard and can make music sound awful if recorded awfully. The additional adjustable bass is a cool but not needed feature since I think the default position provides the best sound signature for all music that I've heard (and it's still a lot of bass). While the bass impact is rather heavy, because of the air around the instruments, the bass never clouds the mix. This is very beautiful to hear. I do feel the sleeves that come with IE8 are not the best in the world, but they are generous with the amount of sleeves they provide for you. There are very simple mods that you can do to get a good seal with the IE8. One is taking a Shure Olive Foam and coring it so that it can glide easily onto the IE8 earpiece, I put up a thread on this mod. OR you can do a mod I have come across since which I like just as much and provides maybe better isolation........ stuffing one of the supplied silicon sleeves with foam so that there is less leeway for the silicone to allow sound in. I also love that the cable is detachable and it seems high quality.

The IE8 Sound best with Classical, Rock, Jazz, Folk, Electronic.........Anything because of the brilliant instrument placement. This is a sound that has to be heard to be believed. It does not sound like any other IEM!

Ranking purely in terms of sound quality
1. Westone 3
2. UE10
3. IE8
4. SE530
5. Triple Fis
6. EX700
7. UM2
8. ER4P
9. SE420
10. 2XS (but it really doesn't belong on this scale at all)

Ranking in terms of sound quality in conjunction with comfort
1. Westone 3
2. IE8
3. SE530
4. UM2
5. Triple Fis
6. UE10
7. SE420
8. ER4P
9. EX700
10. 2XS

***Note: These are all my own opinions and should not be regarded as fact. My SOURCE through out the entire comparison was an iPod and Macbook. I occasionally hooked the iPod up to a RSA Hornet and Corda Move for amplifier testing. The Music files used with the IEMs varied from 160kbps AAC to Lossless. I did not feel it was necessary to use my more expensive DAC and amp when testing IEMs since they are used mostly for portable purposes.
My listening preferences vary, but I'd like to say I love neutrality the most. If I had to vier towards the warm side or bright side it would really depend on my mood, but I would say warm more often.

I hope this has been a helpful read for you:-)

Dave


Edited by DavidMahler - 4/29/11 at 11:48am
post #2 of 195
So many toys... I'm following this one!
post #3 of 195
Would you say the IE8's impressed you more on first listen compared with the westone 3? It did for me..
post #4 of 195
Quote:
Originally Posted by bossnass15 View Post
Would you say the IE8's impressed you more on first listen compared with the westone 3? It did for me..
W3 is a very unforgiving earbud, I have to listen to audio CD through my CD player to max its quality and it really really impresses me...Never listened to IE8, but if someone says it can knock out W3, I really wanna know how they made the comparison. that has to be a really high end technology to knock out the new true 3 way drivers' full potential...
according what I have red in other threads, most people say IE8 sounds muddy at first and after 100hrs of burn in it change a lot...still needs to be proven as I never really heard any IEM that acts like that...
and If possible, I really wanna get a pair of IE8 and make a comparison myself...but as for the price right now, its not fair to the US buyers.
post #5 of 195
really wanna hear more about the W3 vs IE8, the only thing that kept me away from IE8 is people say it is bassy, even tuned to the lowest..(I really dont have a good feeling about dynamic driver IEMs as well like the EX700s BTW)
post #6 of 195
Do you have an iPod?

Looking forward to the UM2 comparison for obvious and also selfish reasons Will wait and see how your findings tally with here (and here)

I would like to know how the W3 handles the piano and female vocals. Cannot go back to the UM2 myself

Thanks,
Happy New Year
post #7 of 195
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jerry Wang View Post
really wanna hear more about the W3 vs IE8, the only thing that kept me away from IE8 is people say it is bassy, even tuned to the lowest..(I really dont have a good feeling about dynamic driver IEMs as well like the EX700s BTW)
Most people don't have a problem with the bass...detail and isolation was the biggest concern for IE8...I actually have a problem with W3's bass as sometimes the mid bass can be so loud that pushes the vocal back...this only happens with comply foams...which is the most comfortable one...
post #8 of 195
Quote:
Originally Posted by LFC_SL View Post
Do you have an iPod?

Looking forward to the UM2 comparison for obvious and also selfish reasons Will wait and see how your findings tally with here (and here)

I would like to know how the W3 handles the piano and female vocals. Cannot go back to the UM2 myself

Thanks,
Happy New Year
Personally, I think Westone 3 does a really good job on Piano and female vocals~but you have to be really careful when choosing your tips and recordings, W3 is very picky, it will make bad recordings sound unbearable~but with good recordings, the sound is so detailed and clear~! sound stage is wide too (many people may oppose that, but it is wide sound stage to me)...
Basically Westone 3 does a brilliant job on every genre I ve heard~it is simply an amazing product~
you cannot go wrong with it.
post #9 of 195
Hmm, I was tempted to buy W3, but ended up going for IE8 due to a major price difference between the two.

I'd be interested in reading another post comparing the 2. I guess I can always sell the IE8 if I don't like it.
post #10 of 195
damn, you have a rather nice collection there, should make for a very interesting comparison review
post #11 of 195
As for me, I have three of the phone on the list, UE10pro, triple fi, ERs4 and of those three, the UE10pros sounds the best. I will be very interested to hear how the new batch of iem (i.e. W3 and IE8) compare to the UE10pro. A lot of headfiers on these forum who own UE10/11 pro will be interested in the same comparison before buying any of these two new iems as comparison between the two is rather scarce. Thank you for you work.
post #12 of 195
looking forward to reading this, wud really loved to do the same, but unable to afford the se530 and ie8

will you be adpoting the new ClieOS method of rating/ranking/comparing them?
post #13 of 195
Quote:
Originally Posted by nsx_23 View Post
Hmm, I was tempted to buy W3, but ended up going for IE8 due to a major price difference between the two.

I'd be interested in reading another post comparing the 2. I guess I can always sell the IE8 if I don't like it.
Just stick with your IE8 deal man, Im so jealous cause I cannot get that price~lol~eventurely there will be people willing to trade w3 with IE8 ^ ^
post #14 of 195
or people willing to help you ship them to canada from australia... hint hint wink wink, say no more
post #15 of 195
so, when will you release the review?
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