Hi all! I've posted a few times before, but mostly lurk since I'm a little light in the wallet. Well, the RE0 have definitely given me a lot to share.
Build Built Like a Rock
Compared to other all-metal housings, these are on par. I don't expect them to break any time soon. The relief on the housing, however, gives me a bit to worry about. The tips are notoriously mal-fitted and you really have to struggle to put the biggest tips. If you stick to one pair of tips then this is a non-issue because you won't be applying stress required to tear the reliefs more than once. I don't expect too many (if any) returns due to breakage.
The jack raises no concerns, but isn't reassuringly solid. The Y-split is metal (yikes) so I'm a little worried that the PPE might be cut under heavy duress (nothing so far). Even more discomforting is the metal ring above the Y-split. It's fitted very tightly and constant adjusting will wear down the wire. I'm probably going to move the ring all the way down and fashion a tape slider like the one on the PK3. I taped two pieces together so they wouldn't stick and the thing has stuck around for nearly a year (Jan '09)
The casing is hard and light. I have absolutely no concerns about its durability. Two little holes jut out from the back, a staple of all dynamic drivers. The etched design doesn't really add or detract. The left and right buds had no distinct physical feature so you can't distinguish them in the dark.
Fit: Nothing Special
I normally love bi-flanges, but the ones that come standard are too long. They sit the driver too far out, even when jammed deeply in my ear. The medium tips are objectively best and recommended even if you have a larger or smaller ear canal. With the mediums, the bass is tight and the seal is good. Isolation is lacking, but I prefer as little isolation as possible with IEMs.
They're very comfortable, applying almost no pressure when worn ear-down on a pillow. The smallest tips let these sit very deep. No physical fatigue whatsoever, similar to the X5s.
Any RE0 owner will tell you that it's well-nigh impossible to change the tips. Apparent from the picture, the nozzle is a LOT larger than the tip opening.
(1) Turn the flange inside out so you can see the nozzle and opening. (2) Fit one side on the ridge, and (3) stretch the other side over to put them on completely.
I haven't had any problems after discovering this method and doubt you will after trying it this way.
Microphonics are bad, but I wear mine over the ear (I know, I need a haircut).
Sound: Flat, Natural, and Neutral
i. Highs, Mids, Bass, and Amped
Highs are crisp and extended, but not forward. I can't stand sibilance, so these do the job well. As long as you keep foams in the nozzle, you probably won't notice much sibilance. Percussion instruments separate well and loud snare drums don't make me cringe as they did with the E4s. As you'd expect, highs are very neutral and not colored in any sense. I listened for about 6 hours the other day without any fatigue.
Mids are neutral, although I prefer a more exaggerated warmth. My EQ is sometimes a bit bloated in the center because of it :P. Again, separation is great and voices sound natural as a result of the flatness. Nothing is recessed, but the mids could benefit from being a bit forward.
Bass is tight and powerful! Everyone complains about the lacking impact, but this probably has a lot to do with the tips. I completely agree with the consensus for all but the medium tips, which definitely allow the thump to come through. These aren't for bass-heads, but they'd probably find the bass adequate. That being said, compared to X5s or AHC-751, the visceral enjoyment that makes you pump your fist and wave your lighters isn't present. Definitely neutral, perhaps a little too cold, but no noticeable roll-off to my ears so I'm very happy with them.
So all those things about sibiliance and flatness go out the window when amped. Unfortunately, most of my listening is unamped, so FiiO, PLEASE HURRY WITH THE E7!!!
What signature? To be honest, I'm used to the Shure E4's forward mids and highs, but these sound almost like reference 'phones. It's so analytical that I initially mistook the sound as boring, but the detail and flatness really grow on you and allow for hearing the music as the artist intended. You can really hear the production in every track, from the exaggerated bass of modern rap tracks to the intentionally poor instrument separation of pop-punk bands. Amped vs unamped is a HUGE difference, as the warmth melds with all kinds of music, and even makes electro sound home-made rather than synthesized.
Natural. I really don't want readers to leave with any impression other than that. I thought Ben Gibbard was singing directly into my ear (Even heard him smacking his lips a bit on non-live tracks). You can really appreciate each artist's voice and style. I even pictured Regina Spektor's pouting lips and Alanis Morrisette's swaying head.
Meh, nothing impressive but definitely no shortcomings. On-par with other high-end dynamic drivers. Perhaps a little slower than Shure E4s, but not enough to make me pick the latter over the former. Bass was natural, but songs with fast drums sounded a little garage-band, if that makes sense.
v. Without foam
Pleasantly forward mids, slightly forward bass (no change in presence or impact), slightly more sibilant highs. Any sibilance is unaccceptable for me, so I decided against no-foam, but most people should be able to stand them. Separation also seemed to suffer. All variations were very modest and I really had to listen for a few days to make any conclusions.
I'd recommend reseating the foam. Pull it out and place it flat on top of the nozzle and evenly push it down until the edges are level with the nozzle. The further you place the foam from the driver, the more unimpeded air it can push.
vi. Frequency response
SineGen reveals a dip from 2240-4400 Hz. This would explain the slightly cold mids. Though the Clip's EQ is often criticized for distortion, bumping up the second to last bar by 2-4 dB makes the sound a little less analytical but warmer. Bass below 150 Hz also drops, but is not helped much by EQing (Clip or foobar).
A unique concern
Sigh, I really am lost on one point. I think my set may be defective. The bass impact from the left bud is minutely stronger. Laying in bed, eyes closed, and blanket snug, the voices and low-notes sound a bit left-biased. The same sounds that are intended to sound right biased end up sounding closer to the middle. The right bud is also more sibilant, perhaps more sibilant than the left is more impactful. But sibilance imbalance is a nonissue as you hardly ever notice ANY sibilance (I really had to listen to loud, sibilant music to even notice). I contacted Head-Direct yesterday and will see if this is an issue of my doing or of theirs, but I've had nothing short of EXCELLENT customer support from them before and not at all worried (just annoyed at having to go a few days away from these babies). Meh, it's not that noticeable anymore.
Should you buy them?
I don't know. Do you like detailed, neutral sound? Is adequate, natural bass enough bass for you? For me, at $84 shipped, these were a steal. Definitely more valuable than the E4s I grabbed last year for the same price, although the Shure sound is perhaps more pleasing due to its coloredness. I like 'em, and I can't wait to pair them with the upcoming E7.