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Impressions of the Ortofon e-Q7 versus the IE8, CK100, SE530, FX500 and X10 (plus CK10 discussion...

post #1 of 881
Thread Starter 
Tagline:
The Ortofon e-Q7 are expensive and only available from Japan. Are they worth the effort?

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon this thread and was instantly hooked by the elegant and straightforward design of these IEMs. I kept waiting for a full review to appear until I realized at last that I had to do it myself.

I shot some pictures (below) that don't really do these beauties justice, if you want to see better ones look here and here.





Manufacturer specs:
Single balanced armature driver
Impedance: 31Ω
Sensitivity: 117dB (forget about driving them from the AMP3! )
Frequency: 10-20,000Hz
Max. Input: 20mW
Cord length: 1.2m
Weight: 11.5g

Price paid:
29800 Yen = $335 = €225 (including shipping) via PriceJapan.com

In the Box:
The e-Q7 comes in a nicely designed cardboard box with the usual three pairs of soft silicon tips, one large-sized pair of foamies and a cleaning tool. You also get a good looking zip-case and that's about it. There’s no shirt clip included. Not much for the price, but ok with me.

Design and build quality:
According to the manufacturer the housing is made of anodised solid aluminium with the earphone handle/strain relief made of elastomer. The angled handle means these can be easily worn both straight down or over the ear. Everything feels very sturdy and of high quality. Regretfully the plug is straight - I would have preferred a right angle plug.

The cable also has a high quality feel and is slightly stiff to prevent tangling. This purpose is sadly defeated by the angled earphone handles, meaning if you want to carry these in your pocket you'll have to tediously disentangle the cables after getting them out - so it's advisable to use a case.

Microphonics is average when worn straight down (w/o shirt clip) and nonexistent when worn over the ears.

If you want to use alternate tips, the usual UE or Sony tips will fit. I tried Sony Hybrid Silicons and settled for UE silicon tips.

Fit:
Very easy to fit regardless of wearing them downward or over the ears. I've no problems whatsoever with seal, just stick them in and they're ok. But considering their short nozzle one might have problems with very narrow ear canals, in case the main corpus won't fit in.

Edit: WARNING, fit issues have been reported from at least three fellow head-fiers with smaller ears. Please read this carefully before you buy the e-Q7!

Fit depends largely on the size of your ear canal. Just look at the picture of the e-Q7 without tips:



You can see the stem is very short. The diameter of the corpus is about 9mm at the front. IMO the crucial point is how deep the corpus will fit into your ear.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard-iu View Post
This picture is very helpful, because it demonstrates the fit when your ear canal opening is >9mm in diameter. In this case a good part of the corpus slides into the opening. But if your ear canal is too narrow for that, you'll most likely have poor fit with the e-Q7. So, IMO it's highly recommended you check this with some cylindrical object of 9mm diameter (pen, etc.) before you buy the Ortofons!

@Richard-iu: thanks for the picture, glad you like your e-Q7!

Isolation:
These are closed phones and isolation-wise roughly on par with the Klipsch X10 and Audio Technica CK100. A bit below the Shure SE530, but sufficient for traffic noise, bus commuting and subway rides.

Sound quality:
Disclaimer/words of caution: I don't hear much above 16kHz so take my comments about highs with a grain of salt. I also have some reservations about balanced armature IEMs and classical music that AFAIK most fellow members do not share. In particular I think that most BA phones cannot render the lower frequency vibrations of strings accurately, so here again my mileage might be widely off yours. Other than that I've tried to be as objective as possible.

I’ve had the Ortofon e-Q7 for two weeks now and spent a considerable amount of time comparing them to my other top IEMs like the Sennheiser IE8, Audio Technica CK100, Shure SE530, JVC/Victor FX500 and Klipsch Image/X10. All music was auditioned unequalized straight out of my Sansa Fuze. Here are some of the songs I picked and the listening notes I made:

Al Stewart – News from Spain (Folk / Rock):
<off topic rave>
Although this track dates back from 1972 and may not be up to modern recording standards, I decided to include it, because Al is an all time favourite of mine. Widely known only for his single soft-rock hit “Year of the Cat” he is IMO one of the best songwriters of our time. Every time I hear his lyrics like
“Now the winter winds possess the southern reaches,
And the sea folds like a mantle on the beaches”
it’s goose bump time for me. And on top of that Rick Wakeman’s piano solo in this song is truly something to behold.
</off topic rave>
e-Q7:
One word: beautiful! Well done bassline without being obtrusive, drums have good definition and impact. Guitar and Al’s slightly nasal voice are perfectly reproduced (I know how he sounds live). One thing that stands out is impeccable instrument separation, resulting in a very transparent sound. Rick Wakeman’s piano is breathtaking. Very nice soundstage, almost up to the IE8.
IE8 (bass at minimum):
Guitar and voice are very good, the mids maybe a tad warmer than the e-Q7. Sadly the bassline walks all over it as upper bass is much too bloated. Piano is almost as good as on the e-Q7 but half-drowned by bass. Famous IE8 soundstage.
CK100:
First thing that comes to mind: the voice is somehow off. Overly nasal and slightly coldish, this is not how Al sounds in real life. The mids are clearly a weakness of this IEM. Other than that bass is nice and unobtrusive, but not up to the e-Q7. Great and very detailed highs. Very nice soundstage, equal to the e-Q7. Piano is good but not amongst the best.
SE530:
Nice, impactful bass, but a bit lacking in definition. Voice slightly too warm, otherwise beautiful. Rolled off highs are noticeable in guitar and piano, but nothing dramatic. Nice soundstage, a tad smaller than the best.
FX500:
Fantastic drums and bass impact, only a little bit too bloated. IE8 could learn from that. Voice is slightly laid back but accurate and natural. Highs are good, guitar and piano again very natural. Soundstage on par with e-Q7. Overall amongst the best.
X10:
Bass has depth and right quantity but definition is not up to the e-Q7. The voice sounds great but a bit warmish due to recessed highs. Highs also missing a bit from otherwise nice piano. Soundstage only so-so. Overall a nice, non fatiguing, laid back sound.

Stacey Kent - Ice Hotel (Female Vocal Jazz):
e-Q7:
Excellent airy sound with just the right amount of bass. The voice is gorgeous and spot-on. Highs are sparkly with great cymbals and only a very slight hint of sibilance here and there. Very relaxed representation with awesome transparency. If I had to find one fault, IE8 has slightly better soundstage.
IE8 (bass at minimum):
Very prominent and soft upper bass. Mids are more forward and a bit warmer than with the e-Q7. Highs, detail and sibilance are on par with the e-Q7, but transparency is slightly less. Very wide soundstage.
CK100:
Again, one can’t help but instantly notice the cold mids. Poor Stacey sounds as if the life blood had been sucked out of her. Now I’ve learned that driving the CK100 from the XIN supermicro makes a big difference, but here we’re talking Fuze headphone out and they just don’t sound right. Bass, highs, detail and soundstage can keep up with the best, but these mids ruin the song for me.
SE530:
Very smooth with nice bass, warm and forward mids and slightly rolled off but sufficient highs. Even a bit sparkly but also a some minor sibilance. Detail and soundstage not quite up to the best, but overall a very pleasing presentation of this song.
FX500:
A tad too much bass, very soft and somehow boomy. Mids are warm and slightly recessed, which makes for a relaxed and laid-back sound. Highs are extended and sparkly, but also prone to sibilance. Good soundstage. Silky and musical, but nowhere near as transparent as the e-Q7.
X10:
Very similar impression to the first song: Bass just about right but not as clearly defined as with the e-Q7. Good, warmish voice is great. Highs are paradoxically recessed but at the same time a bit sparkly (cymbals). Intimate Soundstage. Non fatiguing, laid back sound.

Vladimir Ashkenazy - Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No.2, last movement (Classical Orchestra)
e-Q7:
Most impressive speed and accuracy in piano rendering. Seemingly effortless handling of orchestra dynamics. Very flat, detailed and transparent. Great instrument separation and nice soundstaging. Strings are very nice, which comes as a big surprise, as normally I don’t like strings with balanced armature phones so much. These are the first BA IEMs that I wholeheartedly enjoy with classical music.
IE8 (bass at minimum):
Very natural and airy, but piano maybe a bit too sugarcoated. Fantastic in rendering orchestra dynamics. Compared to the e-Q7 they feel a bit more dramatic while the former stay more relaxed and controlled. Very nice strings. Larger than life soundstage is very impressive with classical. Did I mention they have too much upper bass?
CK100:
Quite likely the most detailed of my IEMs. Very extended highs, but piano sounds a bit too shrill, almost “metallic”. Impressive speed, dynamics and soundstage. Overall a good performance, but the IE8 and e-Q7 do an even better job.
SE530:
First thing that comes to mind, orchestra dynamics is awesome, from delicate silent passages to full slam (that almost makes one jump). Lush presentation with nice but slightly mushy bass and forward mids. Highs are ok but rolled off compared to the e-Q7. Limited detail and soundstage. Overall not bad, but the IE8 and e-Q7 both handle classical better.
FX500:
Musical and smooth with prominent soft bass. Strings are warm and very natural. Extended highs, piano is very nice, albeit a bit shrill in loud passages - but less so than the CK100. Detailed and airy with ample soundstage. Overall very good for classical with more bass than the e-Q7 (might be too much for some)
X10:
Overall very similar to the e-Q7 (which is a good thing), but with slightly less highs, detail and smaller soundstage. Maybe it’s the single BA construction that both phones have in common, but the e-Q7 sounds like a hypothetical Klipsch X15.

Markus Schulz - Mainstage / I am (Trance, kudos to shigzeo!)
e-Q7:
Now, this is a surprise! Never heard such nice low bass rumble from a BA phone before, it almost sounds like a dynamic driver IEM (must be the large size of the armature). Overall bass is very controlled with good punch, but there are harder hitting phones out there. Very relaxed sound with excellent imaging and spacey feeling. e-Q7 is a master in sounding effortlessly.
IE8:
Nice low bass rumble, but upper bass walks all over it. Obtrusive soft upper bass pounding on „I am“ that I don’t like at all. Female vocals are very relaxed. Spacey with vast soundstage and excellent 3D feel. Shame about that bass hump, these are nice trance phones if your source has a good EQ.
CK100:
Not more than a slight hint of low bass rumble. Good bass punch and control on “I am”. Mids are a bit recessed and coldish, but not as damaging to the sound as with other musical genres. Amazingly detailed highs and very good 3D imaging. Overall these are very nice trance phones.
SE530:
A bit more low bass rumble than the CK100 but less than the e-Q7. Bass on “I am” is impactful but a bit undefined. Together with forward mids, rolled off highs and limited soundstage this is not an ideal trance phone.
FX500:
Strongest low bass rumble of all contenders. Massive pounding bass on ‘I am’ partly drowning out the midrange. Vocals feel recessed in comparison. Very good and detailed highs. Nice airy and spacey 3D feel. Good trance phones.
X10:
Bass rumble on par with the SE530, less than the e-Q7. Controlled and punchy bass on “I am”. Again the overall similarity to the e-Q7 is apparent, minus some high extension, detail and soundstage. Still a very engaging trance phone.

TV on the Radio - Golden Age / Family Tree (Indie, Electro, Post Punk)
e-Q7:
I can’t help but growing fond of these phones. Everything I throw at them is handled with relaxed composure and reproduced excellently. Bass, speed, vocals and highs are all spot-on. Ample detail, great imaging and separation. Soundstage is only second to the IE8 but not by much.
IE8:
Softer bass but with good control. Upper bass hump is not so bad with these songs. Vocals are very relaxed, breathy, beautiful. Last not least the „famous IE8 soundstage“ makes it a very good phone for these songs.
CK100:
Well defined, quick and punchy bass. Amazingly detailed highs, cymbals are wonderful. Sadly the Vocals lack all warmth and sound thinnish. Whoever designed those mids, I hope they fired him! Soundstage and imaging are up to the best, but can’t save the phone with these songs.
SE530:
Good punchy bass. Vocals are the exact opposite of the CK100, very warm and forward, simply beautiful! Highs and soundstage are a bit lacking, but overall this is still a very good phone for the songs.
FX500:
Almost too prominent bass, even softer than the IE8’s, but still very good. Vocals are a bit laid back, but still very beautiful. Extended and detailed highs (cymbals!). wide soundstage. Also a good phone for the songs.
X10:
Good quantity and quality bass. Vocals are nice and warm. Again, most characteristics are similar to the e-Q7, but X10 falls short in highs, detail and soundstage.



Final thoughts / conclusion:
The Ortofon e-Q7 belong without a doubt among the best universal IEMs I have heard. In the true sense of the word "universal" they might in fact be the best. Be it Pop, Rock, Classical, Jazz,... everything I threw at them was handled with the same relaxed composure and reproduced excellently. Un-equalized flat out of my Fuze everything just sounded spot-on and wonderful. It's true that for instance the IE8 still does some things even better, like phenomenal soundstaging or dramatic dynamics with classical orchestra, but I have to EQ down the upper bass to really enjoy them.

Comparing all these high level IEMs one won't find severe weaknesses (not counting the CK100s touchy mids; edit: see post #2), differences are subtle and personal preference might easily tip the scale towards one or the other. Ortofon really impress me by taking the single armature design of the X10 a step further with better highs, detail and soundstage and producing a tiny phone that is both visually attractive and exceptionally pleasing to the ears.
post #2 of 881
Thread Starter 
Update 11-27-2009:
I got the new Cowon i9 to go along with the e-Q7 and did an A/B with the Fuze on the above songs. The outcome was overall very similar to my first listen, but with one noteworthy exception: the Fuze seems to have exceptional bad synergy with the CK100, a neutral/coldish source driving neutral/coldish phones. With the warmer sounding Cowon i9 the CK100's mids became more likable and using the even warmer BBE Viva setting they suddenly sounded really good. In short, if I'd done the review with the Cowon i9 I certainly wouldn't have commented that harshly on the CK100's mids. As far as the e-Q7 are concerned, they sound even better with the i9 and remain a most wonderful new discovery.
post #3 of 881
Great review. I was thinking of treating myself to the AT CK90PRO, but now these have got me thinking. I use Kenwood KH K1000 for home listening because they obviously sound great but are great allrounders too. As I listen to all kinds of music these have got me intrigued. Wouldn't it be nice to find an IEM that generally satisfies the listener with most kinds of music? Could these be the ones? Also, they can be worn straight down. I can buy these in korea too, so no need to use pricejapan.
post #4 of 881
I though I was cured from my upgraditis after getting the FX500. But those new headphone are tickling my curiousity. Does anybody know a site that will deliver to the UK?
I like to own one good pair of dynamic and one good BA because of their unique sound quality.
I own the X10, which I used to love, but they only challenge the FX500 on very few style of music so don't get much head time.
post #5 of 881
good review.
post #6 of 881
Woot, more earphones for us to pick from!

Nice review. It's good to see a single BA cover a broad spectrum well. I'm curious what driver they're using. Also the price is kind of laughable. There just isn't hardly any cost in the materials to validate such a cost. The same driver is probably used in a couple other products at half the cost.


A couple caveats, first a BA driver not presenting good bass is a bit of a misconception. Many single BA option do lean towards BA drivers that are well suited for midrange use, typically trading off some low frequency capability. A lot of the multi-driver BA setups tend to fair better once the manufacturer uses both a low frequency geared unit and a mid/high frequency geared unit. The SE530 is a bit of an odd duck in this regard. It has poor low frequency extension. Comparatively the Triple.Fi 10 and UM3X offer much more extended low frequency sensitivity. I'm just nitpicking really. It simply isn't an issue with BA drivers but rather the result of driver choices by the manufacturer.

The second caveat is with the IE8 and the stupid bass knob. Basically the IE8 has emphasized bass. We all know that. It actually starts to raise in the lower midrange and kind of peaks around 100Hz. The bass knob allows us to do some variable Q tuning with the enclosure. The only problem is that the knob only affects frequency below 100Hz. By the time the knob does anything, we already have a frequency boost that the knob can't touch. It kind of makes the knob worthless.

Pretty much what the knob does is it allows you to make the low bass even or anemic. You turn it down, and you just cut out the bottom information, worthless. You turn it up, and you get the bottom information, good. It simply doesn't influence to a high enough frequency to actually fix the main problem in the lower midrange. The only way to use the bass knob to any good effect is to have some EQing that can cut the lower midbass frequencyes, say an EQ at 250Hz or something. We knock that down a couple dB, and then we turn the bass knob down a little and knock down the rest. Otherwise the bass knob is kind of worthless alone.

Fiddle with it for a while. You'll start to see what I mean by it. You can also look at HeadRoom: Stereo Headphones, Amps & DACs, Wireless, Noise Canceling, Ear Canal, Earbud, Audio Cables & Accessories lab tests for the IE8 with the knob min and max. Frankly, I just turned it max and left it because it doesn't create more bass. It just evens it out so to speak.
post #7 of 881
Great review, thanks for taking the time to do it. I'm always fascinated by higher end single BA products. They remind me a bit of full range single driver speakers, which I've always been fascinated with (owned the Teresonic Ingeniums for a while). But I also puzzed at the price. Then again, higher price sometimes is perceived as higher quality, and the rarity of being import only is added prestige for some.

mvw2, we are completely on the same page about the IE8s. Well said.
post #8 of 881
Pity you didn't do an A/B with TF10pro, which i did. To my ears it made even the TF10pro sound muddy and boomy.

A very neutral, transparent, airy sounding IEM which is on par with the top universals, thats E-Q7 for you. Not for bass lovers tho.
post #9 of 881
Quote:
Originally Posted by mvw2 View Post
Nice review. It's good to see a single BA cover a broad spectrum well. I'm curious what driver they're using. Also the price is kind of laughable. There just isn't hardly any cost in the materials to validate such a cost. The same driver is probably used in a couple other products at half the cost.
I think e-Q7 uses a special developed single magnetic pole BA transducer (a normal BA drive works between two poles).
post #10 of 881
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mvw2 View Post
A couple caveats, first a BA driver not presenting good bass is a bit of a misconception. Many single BA option do lean towards BA drivers that are well suited for midrange use, typically trading off some low frequency capability. A lot of the multi-driver BA setups tend to fair better once the manufacturer uses both a low frequency geared unit and a mid/high frequency geared unit. The SE530 is a bit of an odd duck in this regard. It has poor low frequency extension. Comparatively the Triple.Fi 10 and UM3X offer much more extended low frequency sensitivity. I'm just nitpicking really. It simply isn't an issue with BA drivers but rather the result of driver choices by the manufacturer.
Was this meant as a response to my statement "I think that most BA phones cannot render the lower frequency vibrations of strings accurately"? If so, please let my explain my point: it's not that I think BA don't have good bass, I've heard several BA IEMs (SE530, CK100, SF5, e-Q7) that I think have good bass quality and quantity. And - sorry to contradict you - on a low frequency sweep I can hear/feel my SE530 down to 15Hz. My reservations about BA and classical is about something else. With low frequency vibrato (e.g. cello) I can hear the tone but the vibrato is poorly reproduced in BA phones. Maybe it's because compared to dynamic drivers less air is being moved, I don't know. But I'm certain this is not how strings sound to me when I hear them live. Thankfully the e-Q7, despite being BA, does strings a whole lot better. Perhaps a larger armature driver means more air movement? I don't know, I'm no technician. Thanks for your attention, I hope I could clarify this!
post #11 of 881
The SE530 is a poor representation of low frequency ability for a BA, so is the CK100 from what I've read. The Super.Fi 5 hasn't been particularly mentionable either although the EB version is know for having a lot of bass.

I do understand where you're coming from with the hardware you've run, but I'm simply saying there are other BA earphones out there that simply do low frequency a lot better. For example, the Triple.Fi 10 has great timber and string presentation. The UM3X has a very extended bottom end and a more visceral presentation that does great for strings and drums. Both of these earphones are significantly more capable with low frequency information then the SE530. They are more similar to the IE8 with the bass knob turned up, just without the lower midrange hump.

I will make a note on test tones. I dislike them to some extent. The problem is SPL. Hearing a tone and hearing it at the constant dB level are two different things. Most earphones can play a 40Hz tone, many can do 30Hz to some degree. The problem is most earphones are playing these frequencies quite a few dB below the higher frequencies. If you're -20dB down from the information at 200Hz, it gets kind of worthless. Actually get becomes quite lost. For example, 1% THD is -40dB. If you run through some listening tests, you'll even realize we have a difficult time readily noticing distortion even just -20dB to -30dB. At this point, any noise, music, sounds, whatever is lost under all the other information. We as humans are not sensitive to bass information. We suck at it, badly. It basically means if the 40Hz tone at -20dB is there, we wouldn't notice it. If it's not there, we wouldn't notice it missing. Test tones alone become a mute point if you don't keep your perception matched across the frequency spectrum. We can all play low frequency tones and sit there turning up the volume knob to eventually hear it. However, that ends up not meaning much.

I'll show you an example. I'll admit it's not the greatest tool out there, but it will show you what I mean.
First off, distortion:
Listening Test - Instructions
Second, frequency response:
Equal loudness contours and audiometry - Test your own hearing

The first will kind of show you how quiet the noise can be before you have a hard time noticing it's there. The second test shows the roll off of the headphone or speakers you're using. It's not perfect, and you will get different, more correct results if you use something like pink noise and a good EQ. It simply proves a point and will give you a rough indicator of where and how significant the roll off can be.
post #12 of 881
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mvw2 View Post
The SE530 is a poor representation of low frequency ability for a BA, so is the CK100 from what I've read. The Super.Fi 5 hasn't been particularly mentionable either although the EB version is know for having a lot of bass.

I do understand where you're coming from with the hardware you've run, but I'm simply saying there are other BA earphones out there that simply do low frequency a lot better. For example, the Triple.Fi 10 has great timber and string presentation. The UM3X has a very extended bottom end and a more visceral presentation that does great for strings and drums. Both of these earphones are significantly more capable with low frequency information then the SE530. They are more similar to the IE8 with the bass knob turned up, just without the lower midrange hump.

I will make a note on test tones. I dislike them to some extent. The problem is SPL. Hearing a tone and hearing it at the constant dB level are two different things. Most earphones can play a 40Hz tone, many can do 30Hz to some degree. The problem is most earphones are playing these frequencies quite a few dB below the higher frequencies. If you're -20dB down from the information at 200Hz, it gets kind of worthless. Actually get becomes quite lost. For example, 1% THD is -40dB. If you run through some listening tests, you'll even realize we have a difficult time readily noticing distortion even just -20dB to -30dB. At this point, any noise, music, sounds, whatever is lost under all the other information. We as humans are not sensitive to bass information. We suck at it, badly. It basically means if the 40Hz tone at -20dB is there, we wouldn't notice it. If it's not there, we wouldn't notice it missing. Test tones alone become a mute point if you don't keep your perception matched across the frequency spectrum. We can all play low frequency tones and sit there turning up the volume knob to eventually hear it. However, that ends up not meaning much.
mvw2, thanks for the detailed explanation. I don't really like the TF10 form factor (neither that of the SF5, so I gave it to a friend), but you really make me wanna try out the UM3X

Regarding test tones, what I do are low and high frequency sweeps with fixed volume setting. Moreover my Fuze is rockboxed, so I have a HQ equalizer with low cut filter. By listening to a bassy test tune while increasing the low cut from 20Hz to say 50Hz and further on to 100Hz I believe I get a good idea about what audible information is lost. Not meaning to contradict you, just saying I think my observations are halfway decent.

According to these tests I feel safe to say that the e-Q7 is able to render audible information (= information that doesn't get lost among the rest of the frequency spectrum) down to about 40Hz.
post #13 of 881
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by zenpunk View Post
Does anybody know a site that will deliver to the UK?
PriceJapan.com will deliver to the UK. They're also fast, I got mine within 5 days!
post #14 of 881
Quote:
Originally Posted by james444 View Post
Tagline:
The Ortofon e-Q7 is expensive and only available from Japan. Is it worth the effort?

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon this thread and was instantly hooked by the elegant and straightforward design of these IEMs. I kept waiting for a full review to appear until I realized at last that I had to do it myself.

I shot some pictures (below) that don't really do these beauties justice, if you want to see better ones look here and here.






Manufacturer specs:
Single balanced armature driver
Impedance: 31Ω
Sensitivity: 117dB (forget about driving them from the AMP3! )
Frequency: 10-20,000Hz
Max. Input: 20mW
Cord length: 1.2m
Weight: 11.5g

Price paid:
29800 Yen = $335 = €225 (including shipping) via PriceJapan.com

In the Box:
The e-Q7 comes in a nicely designed cardboard box with the usual three pairs of soft silicon tips, one large-sized pair of foamies and a cleaning tool. You also get a good looking zip-case and that's about it. There’s no shirt clip included. Not much for the price, but ok with me.

Design and build quality:
According to the manufacturer the housing is made of anodised solid aluminium with the earphone handle/strain relief made of elastomer. The angled handle means these can be easily worn both straight down or over the ear. Everything feels very sturdy and of high quality. Regretfully the plug is straight - I would have preferred a right angle plug.

The cable also has a high quality feel and is slightly stiff to prevent tangling. This purpose is sadly defeated by the angled earphone handles, meaning if you want to carry these in your pocket you'll have to tediously disentangle the cables after getting them out - so it's advisable to use a case.

Microphonics is average when worn straight down (w/o shirt clip) and nonexistent when worn over the ears.

If you want to use alternate tips, the usual UE or Sony tips will fit. I tried Sony Hybrid Silicons and settled for UE silicon tips.

Fit:
Very easy to fit regardless of wearing them downward or over the ears. I've no problems whatsoever with seal, just stick them in and they're ok. But considering their short nozzle one might have problems with very narrow ear canals, in case the main corpus won't fit in.

Isolation:
These are closed phones and isolation-wise roughly on par with the Klipsch X10 and Audio Technica CK100. A bit below the Shure SE530, but sufficient for traffic noise, bus commuting and subway rides.

Sound quality:
Disclaimer/words of caution: I don't hear much above 16kHz so take my comments about highs with a grain of salt. I also have some reservations about balanced armature IEMs and classical music that AFAIK most fellow members do not share. In particular I think that most BA phones cannot render the lower frequency vibrations of strings accurately, so here again my mileage might be widely off yours. Other than that I've tried to be as objective as possible.

I’ve had the Ortofon e-Q7 for two weeks now and spent a considerable amount of time comparing them to my other top IEMs like the Sennheiser IE8, Audio Technica CK100, Shure SE530, JVC/Victor FX500 and Klipsch Image/X10. All music was auditioned unequalized straight out of my Sansa Fuze. Here are some of the songs I picked and the listening notes I made:

Al Stewart – News from Spain (Folk / Rock):
<off topic rave>
Although this track dates back from 1972 and may not be up to modern recording standards, I decided to include it, because Al is an all time favourite of mine. Widely known only for his single soft-rock hit “Year of the Cat” he is IMO one of the best songwriters of our time. Every time I hear his lyrics like
“Now the winter winds possess the southern reaches,
And the sea folds like a mantle on the beaches”
it’s goose bump time for me. And on top of that Rick Wakeman’s piano solo in this song is truly something to behold.
</off topic rave>
e-Q7:
One word: beautiful! Well done bassline without being obtrusive, drums have good definition and impact. Guitar and Al’s slightly nasal voice are perfectly reproduced (I know how he sounds live). One thing that stands out is impeccable instrument separation, resulting in a very transparent sound. Rick Wakeman’s piano is breathtaking. Very nice soundstage, almost up to the IE8.
IE8 (bass at minimum):
Guitar and voice are very good, the mids maybe a tad warmer than the e-Q7. Sadly the bassline walks all over it as upper bass is much too bloated. Piano is almost as good as on the e-Q7 but half-drowned by bass. Famous IE8 soundstage.
CK100:
First thing that comes to mind: the voice is somehow off. Overly nasal and slightly coldish, this is not how Al sounds in real life. The mids are clearly a weakness of this IEM. Other than that bass is nice and unobtrusive, but not up to the e-Q7. Great and very detailed highs. Very nice soundstage, equal to the e-Q7. Piano is good but not amongst the best.
SE530:
Nice, impactful bass, but a bit lacking in definition. Voice slightly too warm, otherwise beautiful. Rolled off highs are noticeable in guitar and piano, but nothing dramatic. Nice soundstage, a tad smaller than the best.
FX500:
Fantastic drums and bass impact, only a little bit too bloated. IE8 could learn from that. Voice is slightly laid back but accurate and natural. Highs are good, guitar and piano again very natural. Soundstage on par with e-Q7. Overall amongst the best.
X10:
Bass has depth and right quantity but definition is not up to the e-Q7. The voice sounds great but a bit warmish due to recessed highs. Highs also missing a bit from otherwise nice piano. Soundstage only so-so. Overall a nice, non fatiguing, laid back sound.

Stacey Kent - Ice Hotel (Female Vocal Jazz):
e-Q7:
Excellent airy sound with just the right amount of bass. The voice is gorgeous and spot-on. Highs are sparkly with great cymbals and only a very slight hint of sibilance here and there. Very relaxed representation with awesome transparency. If I had to find one fault, IE8 has slightly better soundstage.
IE8 (bass at minimum):
Very prominent and soft upper bass. Mids are more forward and a bit warmer than with the e-Q7. Highs, detail and sibilance are on par with the e-Q7, but transparency is slightly less. Very wide soundstage.
CK100:
Again, one can’t help but instantly notice the cold mids. Poor Stacey sounds as if the life blood had been sucked out of her. Now I’ve learned that driving the CK100 from the XIN supermicro makes a big difference, but here we’re talking Fuze headphone out and they just don’t sound right. Bass, highs, detail and soundstage can keep up with the best, but these mids ruin the song for me.
SE530:
Very smooth with nice bass, warm and forward mids and slightly rolled off but sufficient highs. Even a bit sparkly but also a some minor sibilance. Detail and soundstage not quite up to the best, but overall a very pleasing presentation of this song.
FX500:
A tad too much bass, very soft and somehow boomy. Mids are warm and slightly recessed, which makes for a relaxed and laid-back sound. Highs are extended and sparkly, but also prone to sibilance. Good soundstage. Silky and musical, but nowhere near as transparent as the e-Q7.
X10:
Very similar impression to the first song: Bass just about right but not as clearly defined as with the e-Q7. Good, warmish voice is great. Highs are paradoxically recessed but at the same time a bit sparkly (cymbals). Intimate Soundstage. Non fatiguing, laid back sound.

Vladimir Ashkenazy - Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No.2, last movement (Classical Orchestra)
e-Q7:
Most impressive speed and accuracy in piano rendering. Seemingly effortless handling of orchestra dynamics. Very flat, detailed and transparent. Great instrument separation and nice soundstaging. Strings are very nice, which comes as a big surprise, as normally I don’t like strings with balanced armature phones so much. These are the first BA IEMs that I wholeheartedly enjoy with classical music.
IE8 (bass at minimum):
Very natural and airy, but piano maybe a bit too sugarcoated. Fantastic in rendering orchestra dynamics. Compared to the e-Q7 they feel a bit more dramatic while the former stay more relaxed and controlled. Very nice strings. Larger than life soundstage is very impressive with classical. Did I mention they have too much upper bass?
CK100:
Quite likely the most detailed of my IEMs. Very extended highs, but piano sounds a bit too shrill, almost “metallic”. Impressive speed, dynamics and soundstage. Overall a good performance, but the IE8 and e-Q7 do an even better job.
SE530:
First thing that comes to mind, orchestra dynamics is awesome, from delicate silent passages to full slam (that almost makes one jump). Lush presentation with nice but slightly mushy bass and forward mids. Highs are ok but rolled off compared to the e-Q7. Limited detail and soundstage. Overall not bad, but the IE8 and e-Q7 both handle classical better.
FX500:
Musical and smooth with prominent soft bass. Strings are warm and very natural. Extended highs, piano is very nice, albeit a bit shrill in loud passages - but less so than the CK100. Detailed and airy with ample soundstage. Overall very good for classical with more bass than the e-Q7 (might be too much for some)
X10:
Overall very similar to the e-Q7 (which is a good thing), but with slightly less highs, detail and smaller soundstage. Maybe it’s the single BA construction that both phones have in common, but the e-Q7 sounds like a hypothetical Klipsch X15.

Markus Schulz - Mainstage / I am (Trance, kudos to shigzeo!)
e-Q7:
Now, this is a surprise! Never heard such nice low bass rumble from a BA phone before, it almost sounds like a dynamic driver IEM (must be the large size of the armature). Overall bass is very controlled with good punch, but there are harder hitting phones out there. Very relaxed sound with excellent imaging and spacey feeling. e-Q7 is a master in sounding effortlessly.
IE8:
Nice low bass rumble, but upper bass walks all over it. Obtrusive soft upper bass pounding on „I am“ that I don’t like at all. Female vocals are very relaxed. Spacey with vast soundstage and excellent 3D feel. Shame about that bass hump, these are nice trance phones if your source has a good EQ.
CK100:
Not more than a slight hint of low bass rumble. Good bass punch and control on “I am”. Mids are a bit recessed and coldish, but not as damaging to the sound as with other musical genres. Amazingly detailed highs and very good 3D imaging. Overall these are very nice trance phones.
SE530:
A bit more low bass rumble than the CK100 but less than the e-Q7. Bass on “I am” is impactful but a bit undefined. Together with forward mids, rolled off highs and limited soundstage this is not an ideal trance phone.
FX500:
Strongest low bass rumble of all contenders. Massive pounding bass on ‘I am’ partly drowning out the midrange. Vocals feel recessed in comparison. Very good and detailed highs. Nice airy and spacey 3D feel. Good trance phones.
X10:
Bass rumble on par with the SE530, less than the e-Q7. Controlled and punchy bass on “I am”. Again the overall similarity to the e-Q7 is apparent, minus some high extension, detail and soundstage. Still a very engaging trance phone.

TV on the Radio - Golden Age / Family Tree (Indie, Electro, Post Punk)
e-Q7:
I can’t help but growing fond of these phones. Everything I throw at them is handled with relaxed composure and reproduced excellently. Bass, speed, vocals and highs are all spot-on. Ample detail, great imaging and separation. Soundstage is only second to the IE8 but not by much.
IE8:
Softer bass but with good control. Upper bass hump is not so bad with these songs. Vocals are very relaxed, breathy, beautiful. Last not least the „famous IE8 soundstage“ makes it a very good phone for these songs.
CK100:
Well defined, quick and punchy bass. Amazingly detailed highs, cymbals are wonderful. Sadly the Vocals lack all warmth and sound thinnish. Whoever designed those mids, I hope they fired him! Soundstage and imaging are up to the best, but can’t save the phone with these songs.
SE530:
Good punchy bass. Vocals are the exact opposite of the CK100, very warm and forward, simply beautiful! Highs and soundstage are a bit lacking, but overall this is still a very good phone for the songs.
FX500:
Almost too prominent bass, even softer than the IE8’s, but still very good. Vocals are a bit laid back, but still very beautiful. Extended and detailed highs (cymbals!). wide soundstage. Also a good phone for the songs.
X10:
Good quantity and quality bass. Vocals are nice and warm. Again, most characteristics are similar to the e-Q7, but X10 falls short in highs, detail and soundstage.



Final thoughts / conclusion:
The Ortofon e-Q7 belong without a doubt among the best universal IEMs I have heard. In the true sense of the word "universal" they might in fact be the best. Be it Pop, Rock, Classical, Jazz,... everything I threw at them was handled with the same relaxed composure and reproduced excellently. Un-equalized flat out of my Fuze everything just sounded spot-on and wonderful. It's true that for instance the IE8 still does some things even better, like phenomenal soundstaging or dramatic dynamics with classical orchestra, but I have to EQ down the upper bass to really enjoy them.

Comparing all these high level IEMs one won't find severe weaknesses (not counting the CK100s touchy mids), differences are subtle and personal preference might easily tip the scale towards one or the other. Ortofon really impress me by taking the single armature design of the X10 a step further with better highs, detail and soundstage and producing a tiny phone that is both visually attractive and exceptionally pleasing to the ears.
good review,, i think your ck1000 sounds right, considering i have the cks70 and they have really terrible highs, i am selling them,, good bass not verytight
i directly compared them to the denon c710 and i def prefered the c710 but the c710 had way too much highs,, i am gonna burn them in longer see if it settle but those denon iem' are louder than most
post #15 of 881
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by techenvy View Post
good review
Thanks, I'm flattered, but was it really nessecary to quote the whole review including pics, LOL?
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