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Are (High-end) Custom IEMs Overrated? - Page 5  

post #61 of 467
Quote:
Originally Posted by LFC_SL View Post
Course. A professional photographer's livelihood which depends on his pictures can justify a 10k camera. 90% of this forum do not need a nice headphone but dammit, we aspire towards that goal
A studio recording engineer doesn't require a set of JH13 PRO's, HD800's or PS1000's to record and mix music but we do in order to listen and appreciate it fully.
post #62 of 467
music 4321 - I really appreciate your comments. First, I was glad to read them because I'm currently thinking about customs versus universals. More importantly, I'm glad to read them because they go against the usual grain (more expensive almost always equals better) of Head-Fi.

A number of members (me included) have played the game of starting out small and moving up the price line based on the recommendations of other members and found the improvements to be highly questionable in terms of the price/performance ratio. Many "not worth it" comments are attacked very critically and generally overwhelmed by the number of people who run to defend the existence or price of some product.

This only drives people away from Head-Fi. I'm no longer an active member here because the "worth it" opinion is always rewarded and totally drowns out people who don't agree. I find the presentation on Head-Fi to be totally lopsided. This skew is only increased by the fact that so much of the more expensive gear is out of the reach of so many members and there is no way to demo it. People's expectations and imaginations then go through the roof since there are few contrasting opinions.

Anyway, I'm rambling. Thanks for the post!
post #63 of 467
Speaking at least for myself, I haven't found the "expense is quality" ethic uniformly true on these boards. Sure, there are some expensive phones that people rave about, the SE530s and the like, but these are very good phones, that often deserve the praise they get.

You also hear a lot, though, about mid-priced phones--Monster Turbines, RE0s, Klipsch S4, Nuforce NE-6/7, im-590--that get the price/quality equation right, delivering superior sound to the cost-conscious consumer. In fact, you hear more discussion--as opposed to unvarnished fanboy praise--about these phones. $300 pieces of crap with wooly, unbalanced sound are fairly rare--not so at $75.
post #64 of 467

Bump...

 

I think there should be a small introductory video or document for newcomers. It would be especially helpful if it was made mandatory reading/viewing for new members. I think it is especially important to let them know of the law of diminishing returns. If they sunk all they money they spent on a portable rig (source + LOD + Amp) and just spent it on a pair of good customs (ex. ES3X, JH13, or even just CT6) they would be happy. Heck, if they just spent money on a top-tier universal (with a sound signature they liked), that would be all they needed. But it is also necessary to note that sound can be improved, and once they want more it is there for the taking. Someone has to be that little voice in the back of their head. It used to be a person's wallet, but that is thrown out the window here at Head-Fi. Great Thread!!!

post #65 of 467
Thread Starter 

An update: http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/527694/westone-4-appreciation-thread-and-reviews-a-k-a-westone-4/930#post_7293411

 

And just in case anyone may interested in what I have to say, you might want to check this other thread from September 2010: http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/511135/ck100-um3x-se535-sm3-ie8-a-journey

post #66 of 467
Thread Starter 

 

It is 2 weeks since I got my EX1000 and after listening to a whole range of music genres and many different albums I can now say for certain that the Sony MDR-EX1000 is the finest universal IEM I've ever heard and it is the only universal IEM to be 100% (at the moment) equal SQ-wise to my $850 custom Westone ES3X - yes, the EX1000 is indeed a fantastic sounding IEM.

 

Two years ago I started this thread. At the time I hadn't yet tried the Sony MDR-EX1000, Westone 4, ATH-CK100, Shure SE535, Earsonics SM3 or Sennheiser IE8. I can now only state once again what I said 2 years ago in my opening post - namely that (high-end) customs, in my view, are overrated. True, the only high-end custom IEM I've heard is the ES3X - and no doubt some will say "Well, you haven't heard the JH13, JH16, ES5, UE18, etc." - but I remember two years ago how the ES3X, UE11 & UE10 were regarded by many as a BIG step up from top-tier universals. I still remain VERY sceptical of such (over the top) assessments. The EX1000 is just an incredible sounding IEM and the only one I can say is 100% 'on equal footing' when compared to my ES3Xs. My W4s ultimately felt more like 95% - already very, very close - but the EX1000s I feel have got to the very top.


Edited by music_4321 - 5/25/11 at 7:44am
post #67 of 467

I agree with Jack.

 

And the one data point the OP has is with the ES3X, which according to him uses the same drivers and crossover as the UM3X...

 

Not that the EX1000 isn't good, and music and I don't hear things the same way, but I have yet to hear a custom that sounds worse than the best universal I have heard (SM3, W4, FX700, e-Q7, or many other depending on what people think it better).

post #68 of 467

Custom tips blow universal foamies out of the water...its a nice middle ground to have a nice universal IEM with a custom fit without the resale value loss.

 

I highly recommend getting some um-56 if you westone or shure universal iems

 

Based on this alone customs in general will smoke universals out of the box

post #69 of 467

No due to 2 reasons. It gives the user a perfect fit and isolation. The sound is noticeably better than any universal i own and have owned before. That includes w4,mtpg,mtpc,mdt,hje900,eq7,eq5,ie8,tf10,twf11r, and the list goes on

post #70 of 467
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by average_joe View Post

I agree with Jack.

 

And the one data point the OP has is with the ES3X, which according to him uses the same drivers and crossover as the UM3X...

 

Not that the EX1000 isn't good, and music and I don't hear things the same way, but I have yet to hear a custom that sounds worse than the best universal I have heard (SM3, W4, FX700, e-Q7, or many other depending on what people think it better).

 


I don't see the point you're trying to make saying the UM3X & ES3X have the same drivers and crossovers. BTW, it is not according to me but it was a direct quote from Westone.
 
The W4 presumably has different drivers - certainly the bass drivers at least - and crossovers. Yet the ES3X is a little better sounding to these ears than the W4. So, again, I fail to see what you were trying to say.
 
You stated (elsewhere) that your triple BA custom Earsonics EM3 Pro sounded 35% better than your triple BA universal Earsonics SM3. Forgive me for still thinking this is quite an exaggeration unless, in the end, you heard the SM3 as pretty bad sounding as I did, and your custom EM3 Pro managed to fix what I came to view as the flaws of the SM3s. The UM3Xs, to these ears, sounded markedly better than the SM3s I owned and very likely my ES3X would sound 35% better than the SM3s I owned. But, from the little time you tried (not owned) the UM3Xs I know you preferred the SM3s.
 
You and I clearly hear things differently. And, just for the record, I haven't (yet) said that universals sound better than customs. I said only yesterday that for the first time I've come across a universal IEM that is 100% as good SQ-wise as my $850 custom ES3X. Before yesterday I always maintained high-end universal IEMs get close to high-end customs.

 

post #71 of 467
Quote:
Originally Posted by music_4321 View Post

I don't see the point you're trying to make saying the UM3X & ES3X have the same drivers and crossovers. BTW, it is not according to me but it was a direct quote from Westone.
 
The W4 presumably has different drivers - certainly the bass drivers at least - and crossovers. Yet the ES3X is a little better sounding to these ears than the W4. So, again, I fail to see what you were trying to say.
 
You stated (elsewhere) that your triple BA custom Earsonics EM3 Pro sounded 35% better than your triple BA universal Earsonics SM3. Forgive me for still thinking this is quite an exaggeration unless, in the end, you heard the SM3 as pretty bad sounding as I did, and your custom EM3 Pro managed to fix what I came to view as the flaws of the SM3s. The UM3Xs, to these ears, sounded markedly better than the SM3s I owned and very likely my ES3X would sound 35% better than the SM3s I owned. But, from the little time you tried (not owned) the UM3Xs I know you preferred the SM3s.
 
You and I clearly hear things differently. And, just for the record, I haven't (yet) said that universals sound better than customs. I said only yesterday that for the first time I've come across a universal IEM that is 100% as good SQ-wise as my $850 custom ES3X. Before yesterday I always maintained high-end universal IEMs get close to high-end customs.

 


The point I am trying to make is your only point of reference for a custom is the ES3X which is essentially a reshelled UM3X, so theoretically they would sound close.  You can check my TF10 reshell vs. universal post for my thoughts on the difference between the two.

 

First, 35% is something someone asked me to quantify (I don't recall who, maybe you?) and that is the number I came up with that seemed right.  But I don't understand what your problem with the 35% is since you have never heard the EM3 Pro, which (again) uses all different drivers in a different configuration (2-way for the EM3 Pro vs. 3-way for the SM3).  You can see my thoughts on how the number of drivers/crossovers affect things here.  Really, the other stuff is irrelevant; all I am doing is adding another point of view so readers can make informed decisions.

post #72 of 467

Just want to jump in here with a little comment: With the photographer analogy, it's more they spend $3,000 on the camera and another $20,000 on lenses, filters and general equipment.

 

One thing I'd think would make as much difference is where you're going to listen to them and what with. For example, I've been debating a pair of lower-end custom IEMs (1964-T's to be exact) but one thing that's making me rethink is the fact that I'm going to be doing the majority of my listening with my iPhone as I have my Denons for when I'm at my desk. Under those circumstances, I don't see customs necessarily being a better choice.

 

Though, I'm thinking I'll likely get some manner of portable AMP/DAC to pair the whole thing with if I do go custom.

 

Hehe... When my parents bought their first boat a friend of the family, who also had a boat, said, "Congratulations! You now have a bottomless pit to throw your money into!" I think the same can be said to any audiophile. I'm rather new to the game and only just showing the beginnings of upgraditis. But for now... I'm holding back in no small part to my lusting after various pieces of tech. I have good headphones... Hard drives seem more useful right now. Thankfully. They're cheaper.

post #73 of 467

My 2cents:

 

it depends on what they're being rated _against_.  If you're rating the JH13 against the triple fi, you're talking about totally different price points, and the law of diminishing returns. You need to compare them against other $1000 'phones.

 

I have no idea whether they're "overrated" but I can say that, for me, I'm very glad there was such a buzz about them on this site, because I had a pair of top end sennheisers for years that sounded great but hurt my head, leaked sound like mad (open design) and were not wearable in the subway, around town, etc.  When I got turned on to IEMs, it was like a revelation.  I could suddenly take them anywhere, wear them anywhere, not even be seen as wearing headphones, get incredible isolation from the noise of NYC, not bother people around me in the library or subway or apartment when I'm listening really loud... the list goes on.  I also found out that lots of people seemed to spend $1000's on all these relatively cheap headphones.  That just seemed stupid to me.  You're spending $2000 on 8 pairs of $200-$250 headphones to get all these different sonic signatures... I mean, I can understand the idea, it's a hobby thing, but still, it just seemed to make much more sense to get one pair for $1000 and be done with it.  So that's what I did - and since these are IEMs, it's not like they're Senn 800s or Stax O2s that I can only use in the protected space of my apartment when no one else will be bothered my them, and the noise from the street is low, I can wear them constantly, everywhere, and have amazing sound always!

 

Now certain aspects may be oversold.  Isolation, for instance.  I've got excellent isolation, but it's still not quite as good, I think, as my old Q-Jays, that I stuck so far down my ear canal they probably hit my spinal column.  But those things were so microscopic, they could not begin to compare to the bass drivers inside the giant JH13/16 shell.  Custom shells hit a sweet spot, I think, because they're small enough to be iems and go relatively unnoticed, but they're downright GIGANTIC for IEMs, which allows manufacturers to put a massive amount of technology and design inside that big shell to get a really high-fi sound.  I had the triple fi for a few weeks, and even though that seemed gigantic for a universal IEM, so big as to be really awkward to get a decent fit and seal, it still had nowhere near the amount of space for drivers that a custom has to work with.  

 

 

So no, for all these reasons, I don't think custom IEMs are overrated or oversold or overhyped.  And once we start to get reports back about the JH-3A, we might very well be entering a whole new era...

 

But all that being said, no one should ever feel that they NEED to go to customs or any higher priced phones rather than what they can afford. I loved the triple fi's, and if that was all I could get, I would have been perfectly happy with them. 

 


Edited by AVU - 5/26/11 at 9:08pm
post #74 of 467
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cliffroyroycole View Post

With all due respect, the very notion of any particular type of ear phones, universal IEM, full-size, custom, whatever, as being overrated can produce an interesting debate, maybe. But in reality, since metrics really are never part of this type of discussion (and I am not counting FR charts etc., which have limited use in my view), the entire issue is way too fraught with subjectivity. presumption and personal bias. Isn't it like asking if any other product that produces mainly a subjective experience but costs more (the driving aspects of a Corvette vs. a Porsche, for example) is overrated? I realize the OP is asking if high end customs are not worth their price, right? Because there are much less expensive products delivering basically the same experience. Well, that supposition is a losing proposition from the get-go. It just can't be determined. Debated, sure. But in the end, it is a definitively unanswerable question as long as someone (the OP, for example, and there are no doubt others) believes that high-end customs are, in fact, overrated.

 

I have limited experience with customs, having owned a single pair of actual ones (the JH5s) and one pair of pseudo-customs (W4s with UM56 sleeves). I have owned many many universals, and so far, none of them have matched the sound quality (as only I hear it, of course) of those two IEMs.  For now, I have stopped buying "high end" universals. I am content. Along those lines, I recently owned the Sony EX1000s, which are the main driver behind the revival of this thread. In the end, I didn't believe the EX1000s outperformed the JH5s or even the "custom" version of the W4s.  Just my view. I bought them knowing I had 30 days to return them to Sony with only the postage to send them back at stake. Small risk, potentially big reward. But in the end, I wasn't convinced. I guess I could say the EX1000s are overrated, but I won't.

 

Do I believe that getting a pair of Westone ES5s or JH13/16s are going to be an insta slam dunk winner over the JH5s/W4s? I have no idea. But in my view, there is really only one way to find out. Debating is all well and good, but in the end, what matters is what you have personally experienced - and even then it only really matters to you, and for you.

 

So my plan is to be content, for now. Then, at some point, I will maybe will try out a new, expensive custom IEM. Maybe even one of the new hybrid models that are popping up all over the place. I am not sure. If that purchase turns out to be less than satisfying (in other words, if that pair of customs is overrated based on the factors going into my decision, and compared to the JH5s or W4s), it still can't be concluded that high-end customs are, in general, overrated. That overall question/issue will never, ever be really answered by a bunch of people tossing out their personal experiences, it's just not gonna happen. Those views can help others decide, but in the end, again, the buy and try strategy is all that will suffice - just as it did with universals for so many HFers. And on a case by case basis, buyers/owners will decide whether or not they made the right move.

 

Oh, almost forgot. To answer the original question, do I think my custom IEMs are overrated? No, I don't.

 

 



 

"...the entire issue is way too fraught with subjectivity. presumption and personal bias"
 
I think things are not as subjective as you make them out to be and frankly I think it's a cop-out and rather simplistic to suggest that. As you know I've been mostly referring to high-end customs.
 
"I realize the OP is asking if high end customs are not worth their price, right? Because there are much less expensive products delivering basically the same experience."
 
True, that's why I mostly focus on high-end customs. However, from what I've read of the $400 JH5s I wouldn't say they're overrated. Unfortunately, for people outside the US, you have to add $75 shipping + cost of ear impressions + approximately 20% Customs Duty on price of customs AND shipping, ie 20% of $475, bringing the total cost to $495, and that's if no re-fits are needed, in which case the total cost can increase SIGNIFICANTLY.
 
"I guess I could say the EX1000s are overrated, but I won't." 
 
Of course you could say they're overrated if you really think they are. I personally think they're VERY expensive, though they can now be had for $400, still pricey but far less than the $500 I paid or the original $600+ they were being sold for initially. In fact, I think most top-tier universals are quite overpriced.
 
"That overall question/issue will never, ever be really answered by a bunch of people tossing out their personal experiences, it's just not gonna happen."
 
One of the points I make - and I do believe this point is being completely overlooked - is the psychological variables that come into play with the purchase of such expensive items, ie I really believe  A LOT of people are 'fooled' into thinking that high-end customs are really something else and MUCH better that top-tier universals. We don't like to think - or like to admit - that we may have been duped somehow, and we'd rather think we're hearing things in a completely new light rather than think/admit we may have seriously overspent. Yet there are those few who do know they may perhaps get only a 10% SQ improvement and are aware of that AND willing to spend that kind of money - they are well aware of the 'law of diminishing returns', something most people are NOT.
 
I know this thread is not being followed by many, and seeing thread after thread talking about customs, portable amps, expensive aftermarket cables and so on, it's unlikely many will really stop and think whether what I'm saying may be true or useful at all.
 
The amount of jargon - terms such as micro details, transients, speed, decay (esoteric terms to most people) - make a lot of people think they'll get some kind of revolutionary type of sound coming out of such expensive items - look at the cosmetics industry, where I find far too many similarities. The truth is that a well mastered albums, for instance, played on a decent set of universals costing $150-$250 will offer more SQ-wise than many are aware of or willing to admit. I insist that the power of suggestion & effective marketing are two variables that are almost completely ignored/overlooked.
 
Someone recently contacted me about the possibility of getting the UM3X - they already had one of the cheaper Etymotic models. I actually suggested getting the UM2 instead. With top-tier universals there is a similar - though not nearly as blatant - thing going on: You can get EXCELLENT sounding IEMs for $150 - $250, ie you don't need to get those $350+ top-tier universals either. At least in this case we may be talking about a difference in price of $100 - $150 and most of these IEMs can be re-sold without losing that much money. In the case of high-end customs, if you happen to realise you may have been misled/duped, the cost may be quite high.
 
And just a reminder that I actually got my ES3Xs in the first place because I had cable issues with my W3s. At the time most top-tier universals only came with fixed cables. Nowadays there are plenty of excellent sounding universals - and not all top-tiers - that come with detachable cables: UM2, UM3X, EX1000, IE8, TF10, SE535, SE425 (even the $100 SE215!), etc.

Edited by music_4321 - 5/27/11 at 2:05pm
post #75 of 467


 

Quote:

Originally Posted by cliffroyroycole View Post

 

I have limited experience with customs, having owned a single pair of actual ones (the JH5s) and one pair of pseudo-customs (W4s with UM56 sleeves). I have owned many many universals, and so far, none of them have matched the sound quality (as only I hear it, of course) of those two IEMs.

 

Not to derail too far, but how would you compare those two - full custom shells vs. the custom sleeves? Did the sleeves change the sound quality of the W4s, or was it mostly in improved fit and isolation? Sound quality aside (though impressions on that would be interesting), which would you say provided a better fit and isolation? I ask because I'm considering a similar choice (not the W4s), and I'm curious about the differences, but can't find too many threads on the subject.

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