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Bass ahoy! A comparison of the Monster Turbines, JVC-Victor FX500, Sennheiser IE8 and Audio...

post #1 of 127
Thread Starter 
Hi everyone, I know there have been a few people who have waiting for this comparison. I apologize for the delay. I'm afraid that I'm probably not the most critical of listeners and that this post isn't totally comprehensive, but I hope this can serve as a general guide to some of the differences. Hope you all enjoy the comparison and let me know if there's anything I can add to improve it.





Build Quality

Cable

Longest > Shortest
FX500 (using bundled extension) > CKS70 > IE8 > Turbines > FX500


Rubbery Texture > Plasticky Texture
Turbines > CKS70 > FX500 > IE8




Below the y-spllt, the FX500 have the thickest cable followed by the others which are about the same.

Above the y-split, the CKS70 have the thickest cable leading to the earpiece, followed by the IE8 and FX500 which are about the same. The Turbine cable here is the big loser though as it is much noticeably thinner which is quite worrisome, especially since the Turbines are the heaviest of the bunch.

As for the y-split, the IE8 feels the most durable as it is the only one with strain relief built in and has one of those little thingies for adjusting the y-split. The IE8 is followed by the FX500 which has one of those y-split managers as well. As you can see, the y-split for the Turbines and CKS70 are pretty plain, although any durability concerns for the CKS70 are mitigated a little due to their thicker cable.



Plugs
L-type: IE8, CKS70, FX500 (using bundled extension cable)
Straight-type: Turbines, FX500 (without extension)


As can be seen, the Turbines have absolutely no strain relief at the plug which is a pretty bad idea. The other 3 do, with the CKS70 plug feeling the most flexible and the IE8 having the thickest strain relief.

Earpiece



The Turbines are the heaviest and have the most solid feeling being constructed of metal and have a metal mesh to protect the drivers. When you hold them in hand, they have a weight somewhat similar to a couple of marbles and clack like marbles when they bump against each other. Their gray color-scheme along with the blue and red markings kind of remind of Optimus Prime.

The IE8 are pretty much the plain jane of the bunch. Standard grey plastic with metal mesh to protect the drivers. Grey 'R' and 'L' letters to denote the sides but for some reason, Sennheiser decided to put the lettering at the bottom of the earpiece just above the cable. Not the most convenient of locations. On the positive side though, although they are the most expensive, they are the least likely to get you mugged unless your mugger reads these forums.

The CKS70 are apparently constructed of aluminum (according to Audiocubes) and have the usual paper filters. They are very light in the hand and feature a sub-chamber design (the bulb which leads out the nozzle). Red and blue text to denote left and right like the Turbines. About half of the stem that leads to the cables is actually made of rubber which serve as the strain relief. They have a very nice stealth bomber sort of appearance to them.





(Important correction) Another feature of the CKS70 is that the nozzles have 2 tip positions. This might not apply to the normal tips that come with them, but I've found that there are some pretty drastic differences when using the Sony hybrid tips. The following comparisons have been done using position 2, as the size of the hole in the tip at position 2 is more similar to the size of the holes in the other IEMs. I have added further information concerning the differences between the 2 positions at the end of this post.

The FX500 are constructed out of wood and plastic. Paper filters, same as the CKS70, protect the nozzle. Grey 'R' and 'L' to denote left and right. Metal ring and filter at the other end of the earpiece opposite the nozzle. The very top of the stem that leads to the cables is metal and the rest of the stem is rubber. The left side has a slight bump on the rubber section of the stem for easier identification. I'm not a big fan of wood usually, but the wood has a very nice sheen that shifts along with the light. Very classy looking.

Overall Durability

Overall, I'm going to have to say that the IE8 seem the most likely to stand the test of time. They are the only ones to feature a user replaceable cable, which is where most faults with IEMs occur. The CKS70 and FX500 seem to be about on par since each one has pluses and minuses that the other lacks. In last place, despite the solid metal construction of the Turbines, their cable is quite a major source of worry and definitely does not inspire confidence in the long run.

Sound
Note: All of the following are based on using the Sony hybrid silicone tips as I have found them to provide the best seal for me.

Isolation
Highest > Lowest
Turbines > IE8 => FX500 > CKS70


Not really surprising as the I think the Turbines are the most sealed design. However, this isn't always the best thing as other Turbine owners besides myself can attest that it can cause air trapped within the ear canals to push against the drivers, thus causing a crackling sound, if you insert them too quickly. I'm not sure whether this will cause damage to the drivers, but it doesn't inspire confidence nonetheless. However, if you bear this in mind and are careful when inserting them, you can avoid this issue and they do provide the strongest isolation amongst the the 4.

On the other extreme, the CKS70 might not provide enough isolation for some. I suspect that most of the isolation they provide is due more to the tips used rather than the earpiece themselves. External sounds are more muffled than blocked out. I can quite clearly hear station announcements when I'm on the MRT (Singaporean subway trains) and the footsteps of women in high heels when they walk past. Personally, I still find them quite usable when out and about but they definitely aren't for those for like to block out the world entirely. However, they would be quite ideal for office use when you may need to be able to hear someone calling for you.

Microphonics

Least > Most (Tested by deliberately tapping the cable)
FX500 => IE8 > CKS70 > Turbines


Least > Most (Actually walking around and moving head)
Turbines > IE8 => FX500 > CKS70


I'm sure quite a few people on here would disagree with my results in the second test above since I've seen quite a few vocal complaints about how microphonic the Turbine cables are and few, if any at all, about the IE8 and FX500. As such, I would urge those reading this to see what other people have to say about them. I also find that the results of the second test would seem to depend a lot on how much of the earpiece sits outside the ear canal (greater mass outside the canal = equal greater microphonics?), so that seems to be one of the major factors at play here. What is quite clear though, is that the CKS70 does not do well in either area. I would still use them for outside use, although I've never found cable micrphonics to be a major issue to me.

Sensitivity to wind noise
Least > Most
Turbines > IE8 => FX500 > CKS70


Again, pretty much a function of how much of the earpiece sits outside your ear. The CKS70 is pretty sensitive in this respect though. I haven't used in any particularly windy locales yet but it might be pretty bad for people who in places like Seattle.

Soundstage

Widest > Smallest
CKS70 > IE8 => FX500 > Turbines


I find that the soundstage differences aren't particularly large leaps if you go up each step in the hierarchy above but the difference between the CKS70 and Turbines is very noticeable.

Highs
Detail
Most > Least
FX500 > CKS70 => IE8 > Turbines

Turbines - Treble is possibly a little more forward than IE8. Least amount of detail in treble.

IE8 - Treble has slightly less presence than with the Turbines but quite fair bit compared to the CKS70. Similar detail to CKS70.

CKS70 - Most recessed highs of the lot. It's there but you have pay more attention than with the others. More detail than Turbines and about on par with IE8, if not slightly better.

FX500 - Quite obvious sibilance when compared against the other 3. Most forward treble with the most detail.

Mids
Smooth - Harsh
IE8 > Turbines > CKS70 > FX500

Turbines - 2nd smoothest mids. Noticeably recessed mids compared to the others. Least detail.

IE8 - Smoothest mids. 2nd most forward and 2nd most detailed but I find separate instruments easier to pick out than with the FX500 on rock and metal due to the lack of harshness.

CKS70 - Slight harshness in mids. Slightly more recessed than IE8 and less detail.

FX500 - Quite obvious harshness. Most forward mids of the lot and possibly most detailed but frankly, I find the harshness makes them my least favorite for rock and metal as it becomes quite distracting and imo, actually makes it harder to pick elements apart.

Lows

Bass Impact
IE8 (on minimum setting) => CKS70 > Turbines => FX500

Bass Definition
IE8 => CKS70 > FX500 > Turbines

Bass Range (How low does it go?)
FX500 => CKS70 > IE8 => Turbines


As you can see, the CKS70 do very well on these three bass qualities. They may not be the best at each category, but they are always 2nd and never far from the top performer. While the IE8 may have more punch, it mainly occurs as a mid-bass hump and doesn't go as low as the FX500 and CKS70. As for the FX500, while it may go the lowest, it doesn't have the punch of the IE8 and CKS70. To put it simply, the CKS70 combines these two aspects and creates an entirely different sound. Imagine an IE8 with sub-bass reverberation to match its punch and you'll have a pretty good idea of what the CKS70 are like. However, for those who like their drums to sound and feel as natural as possible, the FX500 is probably the best choice.

Overall Comments

Which one is the best you ask? Honestly, I still think that there are enough sound signature differences for me say that it depends on what you're looking for. Personally, I've found that each of these 4 IEMs can sound the best to me depending on the genre I'm listening to. For example, even though the Turbines may have come off the worst in the comparison so far, I find I prefer them the most for listening to metal. As the for the others, I like hip-hop with the IE8, jazz with the FX500 and electronic music (especially dubstep) with the CKS70.

CKS70: Differences between tip positon 1 & 2



As you can see, the hole in the tip is much bigger when in position 1 than 2. I realize that some might consider this feature to be similar to doing a tip mod, but I feel that since it is an inbuilt feature of the CKS70, it should be fair game when discussing it.

In case, you're wondering how it stacks up in the rankings I've mentioned earlier, the relative positions are still the same, but whereas there might have been a big difference between the CKS70 and another IEM previously, the gaps have shrunk considerably.

With the tips at position 1, here are the changes I've noticed:
- Treble more forward (closer to IE8)*
- Mids more forward (Closer to IE8)*
- Bass becomes less prominent (Closer to IE8 but not nearly on par as before)*
- Isolation increases (Closer to FX500)
- Soundstage shrinks (Closer to about the same as IE8)
- Less microphonics when walking around (Closer to FX500)
- Less sensitive to windnoise (Closer to FX500)

*Again, I stress that my opinions are based on using Sony hybrid tips. Changes in sound signature should be minimal when using the stock tips as there is no change in the size of hole when changing between position 1 and 2.
post #2 of 127
Nice overall review

I'll have to disagree on IE8's bass range, I can "feel" down to about 15hz and hear starting on about 35hz,
but that doesn't mean much, a better way of putting this would be that the drums in Burmester Reference CD 3,
Yim Hok Man's Poem of Chinese Drums, particularly the forceful drums starting 0:00, 3:13, 4:30 and 9:35,
sound natural and real (more realistic than before). It's easy to hear how the membranes of the drums calm down,
the decay of the sound lingering, the vibration of air spreading out in your headstage.
post #3 of 127
Thanks for a great detailed review, waiting for the rest of it.
Decay, as you also seems to have those headphones how would you rank them regarding bass.
I only have the FX500 for a week and I found them fantastic for Dubstep,they go very low and add a nice reverb that make my head vibrate, but don't seem to move much air unfortunatly. Guess you can't have it all.
But now will have to look into those CKS750.
Treble on the FX500 is also impressive, very extended and present. They were quite harsh at first and started to have second though but they seem to have settled down nicely after about 50 hours of use. Or maybe I just got used to it.
post #4 of 127
Quote:
Originally Posted by zenpunk View Post
Thanks for a great detailed review, waiting for the rest of it.
Decay, as you also seems to have those headphones how would you rank them regarding bass. ...
Sorry, I don't have other IEMs to compare to, so I'm only disagreeing with OP's
description of IE8's bass range.
post #5 of 127
Couldn't help myself and had a quick look for those CKS70 and as the FX500 they seem to be only sold in Japan. But a seller on Ebay has some and they are only are £60 with postage!!!
Gonna try to hold on until you compare the mid and high. Surely they can't be that good (hoping..). Must keep away from this forum.
post #6 of 127
very well done comparison - great to see such a well thought out write up. i think i agree with nearly everything, but feel actually (don't kill me) that the bass with the turbine is more natural than the ie8. its cable is rubbish and the stage is small, but bass (i used futuresonics foams with all of these) went very low but did not muddle around with upper bass energy as much as the ie8 which loses a feeling of resolution because of the upper energy.

i have not heard the audio technica (yet) but will. the victor, i agree seems to be one of the best for natural instruments:jazz. the turbine is great for electronica though its small stage is troublesome. both it and the victor have good edges with the foamies and are great buys. but, other than the cable, i cannot justify the ie8's price. each of these should have a better cable, but they are, for the most part, much cheaper than the ie8 and overall, for sound, excel in more areas.
post #7 of 127
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the comments so far.

Decay, I apologize if I wasn't clear enough but I'm not saying that the IE8 are not capable of sub-bass. However, when compared to the FX500 and CKS70, the difference in range is quite noticeable.

Zenpunk, if you like the low-end reverb of the FX500, you'll love the low-end reverb of the CKS70 as it's even stronger. For dubstep, I think they perform better than the FX500. Also, I was going to add this to the availability section later, but I actually showed the CKS70 to one of the staff at one of the better known audio stores here and he said that he'd already heard it. Apparently, the Audio Technica distributor in Singapore was going to bring them over here, so it seems like the CKS70 won't be a Japan exclusive like the FX500. No guarantee that they'll come out in the UK, but it's a good sign at least.
post #8 of 127
Great comparison DTKZ. After reading many reviews including this one, I've come to the conclusion that the Sennheiser IE8 doesn't seem to be worthy of its high price, at least its MSRP. Somewhat dissapointing considering how much I love my CX550s; it appears that the diminishing returns are quite steep within the Sennheiser range.

Also, the fact that a $60-70 canalphone like the CKS70 can compete with two $100-120 earphones (the Turbines and FX500) leads me to believe that the sub-$100 phones are improving by leaps and bounds, further shrinking the performance gap between them and the midrange and higher-end products.

Needless to say, I still see these lovely Audio-Technicas in my future, although the CX550 and RE2 are really all I need for my intraaural enjoyment.
post #9 of 127
DTKZ, a table comparing specs, driver types and sizes would be nice too.
post #10 of 127
Quote:
Originally Posted by DTKZ View Post
Thanks for the comments so far.

Decay, I apologize if I wasn't clear enough but I'm not saying that the IE8 are not capable of sub-bass. However, when compared to the FX500 and CKS70, the difference in range is quite noticeable. ...
No need to apologize for anything, rather I should thank you for writing this nice comparison.

Now, no offense, but your reply confuses me even more. If how-low-can-you-go
is what you meant by bass range, and IE8 is capable of sub-bass, are you trying to say
that it's harder to hear low sub-bass as a result of IE8's mid-bass hump?
I do wonder what it feels like when FX500 and CKS70 reach their low frequency specification
(8 hz and 5 hz respectively).
post #11 of 127
Totally agree with you KJK1281. I was going to buy the IE8 before I read about the FX500 on this forum. IE8 looks more and more like one of those FOTM iem. To make things worse I think the Fx and turbine were out well before the IE8.
post #12 of 127
Quote:
Originally Posted by zenpunk View Post
Totally agree with you KJK1281. I was going to buy the IE8 before I read about the FX500 on this forum. IE8 looks more and more like one of those FOTM iem. To make things worse I think the Fx and turbine were out well before the IE8.
Well, the FX500s seem to be slightly over-elevated here as well.
The Victors are very well-regarded in Japan for the price. Granted, YMMV and tastes and preferences and all that jazz, but sometimes as consumers we need to take a step back from some of the enthusiasm that makes these boards great, and really think through our purchasing decisions. It may be better to wait it out a bit before surrendering our wallets.
post #13 of 127
NO, NO, FX500 are the new King..
Seriously, in that price range they are stunning headphone. I am starting to prefer them to my Klipsch Image x10.
post #14 of 127
Quote:
Originally Posted by zenpunk View Post
NO, NO, FX500 are the new King..
I know I'm going against the grain (or perhaps more accurately, rip current) with my remarks. Of course I'm also going off-topic...

Anyway, I'm definitely going to give these CKS70s a try, if only because I can buy them cheaply from Amazon JP and get them shipped here by my family in Japan. Also, it would nicely fill in the gap created by the sale of my old SJ5s.

EDIT: RE: FX500 vs. X10 - That just means the X10s weren't all that to begin with.
post #15 of 127
But I loved my Klipsch..And what about thinking through our purchasing decision?? You already pulled the trigger on those CKS70
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