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Top-Tier Universal IEM Comparison Chart, Frequency Response Charts, & Discussion

post #1 of 785
Thread Starter 
This is the Top-Tier universal fit IEM chart/thread. The below chart is designed to help give sonic characteristics and take out opinion, except in the final two columns and possibly the notes. The chart is usually updated daily, or whenever new data is provided and time permits. You might need to refresh [multiple times] the page to see the current chart, as often browsers/servers keep cached copies.

Some thoughts on Top-Tier: germanturkey & KLS, Spyro, average_joe, ClieOS.

The below chart has 4 sections:
- Top-tier universal IEMs
- Top-tier after modding
- Yet to be released possible top-tier IEMs
- Members list displaying what they have heard, as IMO perspective is extremely important.

And there are frequency response charts here (post 2).

If you have additional information to provide, please have your posts contain:
- Changes to the individual boxes in the chart.
- Your proclamation that your think an IEM on the chart is top-tier or not
- What IEMs on the chart you own, used to own, and have spend a good amount of time with
- If I missed any IEMs for any of the categories
- Discussion, points, and counter points to anything and everything top-tier universal IEM related!
Note: please make sure to let us know what you have owned and heard for a frame of reference.

There is additional information below the chart as well as a pdf file. And here is my Copper comparison review (with IE8, FX500, CK10, CK90Pro (modded), RE252, TF10, and some e-Q7)

Click here if I said the chart was updated, but you don't see any updated (old version in cache).

PDF Chart

Unanswered question: What has changes have been made to the TF10 internals?(I asked UE that question via email and linked to this post)

Driver Technology:
There are two main types of drivers, balanced armatures (BA) and dynamic drivers. You can read technical information about BAs here and dynamics here. Dynamic drivers typically are larger and applying Newton's Laws of Motion, require more input power to produce the same volume level (sensitivity), move slower, and keep moving longer than BA drivers. This affects the sound of both types of drivers, with BAs moving less air and being quicker to come to a stop, the bass has less impact and natural reverberation like many are used to. (Most music we listen to is produced by dynamic drivers with they dynamic sound). And even if the bass levels are the same between a BA and dynamic, the reverberations of the dynamic can make the bass much more palatable and strong.

On to treble...the BA treble can be extremely detailed and "etched," presenting every last detail in the source no matter how good or bad the recording/mastering is. Dynamics a lot of the time smooth these details over, which makes for an easier to listen to presentation, but the listener misses out on some of the micro-details present. BAs can bring the details of an instrument right in your face just like you are sitting near an instrument focusing on the details. This may be enjoyable for some, but not for others. It many times doesn't make for the relaxing, smooth experience that a dynamic can deliver. Of course there are always exceptions to any rule

There is a new BA type called (by Grado) a Moving Armature, which is a cross between a dynamic and a BA. Many like the results in the e-Q7, but the jury still seems to be out on the other implementation, the GR8.
post #2 of 785
Thread Starter 

Frequency Response Charts

Frequency Response Charts:
Note: the charts are not all in the same format, so when comparing, please try to check how many dB's the differences are, as the charts are not all to scale. Also the charts can have varying frequency steps and max/mins.

Monster Cable Turbine Pro Copper:

Monster Cable Turbine Pro Gold:

Ortofon e-Q7

Grado GR8

Sennheiser IE8:

Audio Technica CK10

Triple.fi 10 compared to the ER4P and CX300:

Etymotic Research ER4S/P:

Shure SE530

JVC/Victor FX500 - FX500 is blue, CK10 is red:

Audio Technica CK90Pro (stock) - CK90Pro is red, ER4P is gray
post #3 of 785
I really think the Westone 2 deserves a place here despite not being a triple driver nor the top tier in the company(neither is the CK10). Whether or not I prefer the UM3X, W3 or W2 really depends on the day, music and mood and it is not a grand slam that the triple driver offerings are better.

I would say
Westone 2
Strength: Great Soundstage Size(spaciousness?), balance, perceived detail, ergonomics
Weakness: Micro detail doesn't measure up to UM3X, soundstage directions can be a bit fuzzy, Instrument texture.
post #4 of 785
Have you heard the TF10?
post #5 of 785
If you're going to put the RE252 up there, shouldn't the ER4S be there as well? IMO comparable in price bracket as well as quality.
post #6 of 785
Originally Posted by iponderous View Post
Have you heard the TF10?
I think this was addressed to the OP, but since I had them, I'll just write down my impression.

Strength: Hard hitting quality bass, good treble, decent soundstage
Weakness: Horrible fit, badly recessed mid, average mid quality

I sold my TF10 awhile ago, but from memory(and this might be controversial) I think they share a very similar sound signature to the W3 and is not that much worse sounding than the W3, but my god, the fit and the cable...
post #7 of 785
@average joe: to answer your question from the other thread since it's more relevant here..the ER4s is the pretty much the ER4P with a 75 ohm resister adapter added to it. (ER4P being 27 and ER4S being 102 if I'm not mistaken)

Originally Posted by average_joe View Post
I did think of the ER4P
( that is the 75 ohm version, right?), but only heard it for 10 minutes. My limited experience makes me think the sound sig is close to the CK10, but the CK10 images better.
post #8 of 785
Originally Posted by playingwithfire View Post
I think this was addressed to the OP,
Yes it was.
post #9 of 785
Thread Starter 
OK, I am thinking of a format with this info:
Best attribute | Strengths | Weaknesses | Worst Attribute | What It Does Better Than Any Other Universal | Tier Rank | Top-Tier Supporters | Top-Tier Detractors
post #10 of 785
Is a thread enough? How about a new forum?
post #11 of 785
@average_joe, what about adding sound signature/presentation (ie warm/cold, bright/dark) of each of the phones so people can roughly 'imagine' how they sound?
post #12 of 785
I think if done well this could be a very good and helpful thread to many new head-fiers like me
Aren't you going to include TF10P?
post #13 of 785
Nice thread. Definitely bookmarking and coming back to in the future if I ever need to get another top tier IEM (I have the Triple.Fi 10s now. )
post #14 of 785
Edit: What is top-tier? An IEM that does something better than any other IEM? For example, to me the CK10 has the best imaging I have heard. The IE8 the best soundstage. The Copper has the best bass. Etc.
That's a bit of a skewed criteria don't you think? eg I can't think of one single thing that the W3 is the best in. Bass quantity is less than Monster Turbine, bass quality is worse than UM3X, instrument separation is definitely worse than the UM3X...
post #15 of 785
CK10 imaging is mediocre. There are a lot of earphones that do better: UM3X, SE530, Custom 3, C751, ER4S, RE252, etc. By better I mean puts a sound in a specific spot on the mental stage, specific angle and distance from you the observer. The CK10 isn't bad as it does this somewhat, but it's not great either.

Best imaging I've heard: UM3X. It's the only one I've used that did better then the ER4S and the only one I could specify an exact distance to every sound.

Tossing out some generals of the ones I've used on your list(best for what I've used):
IE8 -
best: biggest sound stage size
strength: low frequency extention, easily to 20Hz without rolling off in sensitivity, great balance for mids and highs
weakness: half useless bass knob that could only adjust the bottom half of the response peak at 100Hz, slightly laid overall detail creates softness on the top end

best: high frequency speed and articulation
strength: excellent upper frequency detail, largely well balanced, does not sound "lacking", excellent speed and cleanliness.
weakness: hot top end (moderate peak at 12kHz) that upsets the overall balance if not EQed,

best: sound stage locational cues, exact spot in space with precise distancing
strength: shows the pureness of the music (good or bad), excellent balance and extension, great dynamic range and ability to show subtlety, good articulation of note.
weakness: pureness can suck the "life" and "fun" out of music, can sound rough around the edges on less then stellar audio tracks.

Triple.Fi 10:
best: one of the most refined mid and high frequencies available
strength: high detailed, robust sound, well sized sound stage, good separation
weakness: physical design, slightly over exaggerated and somewhat messy bass, early bass sensitivity roll off (drops sharp at 100Hz), lacks a sense of stage depth

best: most revealing and transparent dynamic driver I've used
strength: largely well balanced and extended, transparent, excellent note impact, separation, cleanliness, stage size, locational cues, shows pureness of music, realistic sounding
weakness: slightly bright presentation rolling off early but slowly in the lower frequencies, can sound quite bad on poor recordings, physical fit ear shape dependent, slightly "dark" sense to the music

best: dynamic balance where everything sounds "appropriate" in emphasis
strengths: outstanding locational cues, articulation of note, level of detail, full bodied notes
weakness: early roll off on low end frequencies, uneven top end frequencies

best: midrange
strengths: squeaky clean notes, high precision, exact locational cues, great separation, transparency, realistic sound
weakness: early and moderate low frequency sensitivity roll off, lack of "thickness" and weight to notes (too squeaky clean?), odd perception of stage depth(things perceived in wrong places, ex. drummer in front of singer).

As for top tier, I see this like super cars. Something is a top tier product because it does something better then every other product out there. It also largely does nothing seriously wrong. In this sense, a top tier earphone would lack any significant flaws and be special/amazing in some particular way. I see things like the UM3X, IE8, Triple.Fi 10, and RE252 as top tier products. They are all seriously good products or at least largely good products that do certain things amazingly well.

I see the CK10 and even the SE530 as one step down. I say the CK10 because it doesn't quite do anything to an amazing, uncomparable level versus other products available. It does do a lot of things good though and is definitely a respectable product though. I can see it being a great fit for a lot of people. I say the SE530 because it seriously lacks low frequency sensitivity which I personally see as a "fault" for any multi-driver earphone. The problem is there are numerous single driver earphones that match or beat the SE530's frequency response range, and that's quite a shame for something running 3 drivers and that needs a sizable amount of EQing to balance out and extend to a respectable level. Simply focusing on midrange just isn't enough. It's more of a top tier misfit.
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