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Impressions of the Playaz N1, Sonia II, RE252, RE0, PFE and IE8, or “Something of Everything and... - Page 3

post #31 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by james444 View Post
I can see the similarity between the PFE and SE530 in this regard, but between these two the PFE strike me as better balanced, especially mids vs. highs.
Perhaps the PFE is better balanced in terms of frequency response, but in overall sound quality, SE530 is a far better IEM IMO. It just has far superior detail, dynamics, bass impact, and just sounds a lot more realistic than the PFE to my ears. It's really in a different league. PFE is just solid entry level IEM IMO with a frequency response tuned well for modern pop music.
post #32 of 77
Thread Starter 
^ It took me some time to reply to this one, because I needed to A/B the PFE and SE530 to get a fresh impression. I haven't been listening to the SE530 for quite some time.

So, after going back and forth between these two, the short answer is: yes you're right, as far as detail, dynamics and bass impact are concerned.

However (the long answer) like I said earlier, we seem to have different priorities in what makes for a realistic performance. I conclude from your postings that detail is very, very important for you, so if an IEM doesn't deliver a certain amount of micro-detail (= what you call simplistic) it spoils the performance for you. Am I right with this assumption?

For me, the priorities are obviously different. I can be ok with a more "simplistic" rendering, if other qualities like timbre, soundstage or transparency are top notch. I like the PFEs in this regard, whereas the forward and warm mids on the SE530 result in a very "thick" presentation, that spoils timbre and transparency for me. So, at the end of the day the PFEs are able to pull off a slightly more pleasing performance to my ear than the SE530, even though the latter have clearly better detail, bass and dynamics.
post #33 of 77
Great writeup James444... does Head-Fi need a "Team: EQ or GTFO"? The Playaz do sound really nice with your EQ settings. I've had similar positive EQing experiences with other cheap phones as well, like the CX300.

Quote:
Originally Posted by james444
The weakest of them (if I dare say so) was the RE0, because it also fell a bit short in rendering the highest highs, which came as a major surprise after all I’ve read about this phone. Maybe I’ve got a subpar unit (sorry dfkt!)
Quote:
Originally Posted by EraserXIV
from what i've read, it seems like the re0 you have might be one that had the foam-mod performed on it. i personally MUCH prefer the re0 without the foam mod. after performing the mod, the re0 becomes too forward, almost bordering on sibilance on some of the highs. it looses its silkiness and becomes a bit too sharp for my tastes.

have you checked to see if the foam in the re0 is still there?
Quote:
Originally Posted by james444
Concerning cymbals, I think they must be very hard to render realistically. IMO it takes very detailed treble, plus sparkle. The RE252 has all the detail it takes, but misses some sparkle. I'm unable to A/B right now because dfkt has my CK10 and CK100, but from memory I'd say the Audio Technicas do great cymbals.

The mesh is still on, so I cannot tell, but they don't look like they have been tampered with. But I'll ask the owner.
The RE0 are as-is, I didn't mod them or tinker with them in any way. They have maybe about 100-150 hours on them, only music, no silly forceful "burn-in". I did check them shortly before giving them to james444, and they sounded the same as I remember them back when I reviewed them.

It could indeed be that the Cowon i9 isn't the right match for the RE0. While the Sansa Clip/Clip+ drives them perfectly well, I can't say if Cowons behave the same - since I never use Cowons without an amp.

I find the CK10 to have too much treble energy with cymbals, and the CK100 too little of it. Those two AT's are quite weird - especially in their relation to each other, but also price- and armature-count-wise.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mvw2
Yep, the RE252 is pretty interesting, definitely better then I was expecting when I got my pair. Considering they can be found used for under $150, they are an insanely good buy for the quality of sound they produce.
Quote:
Originally Posted by james444
x2, I wasn't expecting the RE252 to be that good, especially since dfkt's comments weren't flattering when he gave them to me.
They are certainly nice sounding phones in a way, but I disagree that they're a good buy for their MSRP, or for $150, or anything above, say, $80 (like the RE0). Their $5 build quality and cable is a joke, their fit and form factor is very bad to my ears, not to mention their disgusting lint-magnetism, and the microphonics are unbearable since one can't loop the cables over one's ears. Like other Hifiman/Head-Direct products they seem to follow the dogma, "sound quality is all that counts, everything else doesn't matter at all" - which is something I can't subscribe to. I do have to judge a book by its cover (meaning, usability), in a way.

I absolutely hated the RE252's sound when they were new, but they indeed changed into something a lot better sounding over time. Too bad they're not really usable for my ears, or my overall idea of quality.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pianist
I find that it misses a lot of harmonics and just sounds overly schematic/simplistic to my ears. The PFE also cannot reproduce the atmosphere of a recording properly IMO - all music I've tried sounds brighter, more "fun" than it should. Not sure if that makes sense, but the PFE sounded sort of "childish/immature" to my ears.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pianist
Perhaps the PFE is better balanced in terms of frequency response, but in overall sound quality, SE530 is a far better IEM IMO. It just has far superior detail, dynamics, bass impact, and just sounds a lot more realistic than the PFE to my ears. It's really in a different league. PFE is just solid entry level IEM IMO with a frequency response tuned well for modern pop music.
Seems you really hate the PFE, the way you make it sound as if they're Skullcandy junk IEMs instead of being rather similar to the Etymotic/q-Jays sound. And I somewhat doubt you actually listened to "modern pop music" on them (whatever that phrase implies). I couldn't disagree more with your opinion of the PFE being a 'toy'. While I'm the last one to actually like 'neutral' (read: 'boring, anemic') phones, the PFE do a lot of things better for my ears than the usual similar suspects like the Etymotic ER-4/6, the RE0, the q-Jays (Pianist, I'd love to hear your opinion on the q-Jays, by the way), or also the CK10. I find myself often reaching for the PFE when I'm mixing/mastering some audio tracks in the studio, since next to my speakers and other phones for me they're a point of reference regarding detail (not sure what some people mean by 'microdetail', descriptions seem to differ), correct weight of sum EQing, and such.

The SE530 in comparison lack real bass for my ears, it's all overshadowed by their unimpressive midbass. But indeed, despite their lack of bass and treble the SE530 certainly can sound more 'pleasing' and euphonic than the PFE in a way. For me it's usually just a matter of getting used to a phone over time... spending a lot of time with the PFE makes me think the SE530 are a muddy midrange mess, spending a lot of time with the SE530 makes me think the PFE are overly shrill and bright.

Concerning the 'brightness' of the PFE, seems that's very much dependent on the tips used with the phone. All of the stock PFE tips, including the Complys, have a specific diameter that acts as a kind of resonator, pushing the treble frequencies even higher. Using any other brand tip with different tube diameter might noticeably change treble response.

FWIW, I would use neither of the phones mentioned in this thread as my daily listening devices - with the exception of the IE8 - but the PFE are quite on top of my list, as far as the IEMs discussed in this thread are concerned.
post #34 of 77
That's more nitpicking over little things, but I agree you are paying for a total package. I favor sound over most things, so I personally don't care so much. The cabling is fine to me. I would like to see reliefs everywhere of course, but quite a few earphones out there simply don't incorporate reliefs everywhere nor have amazing cabling. The cord itself doesn't strike me to be on either end in terms of quality. It seems pretty standard.

Fitment is the bigger issue with these. I think the gummy part can be trimmed as needed to fit, but it's something I haven't done. I also don't know how available a replacement would be if you ended up going a bit wild on it and messing something up. I guess the worse you could do is just turn them into just their plastic shell. It does take a little bit to get used to them in the ear though, like a good week of use just for it not to feel weird. Tip choice is important to both get good fitment and a seal and can end up positioning the earphone in a more or less correct place in the ear for the overall gummy structure. Foam tips become very useful for this. I'm using some Shure Olive foams wrapped around my TF10 foam tube at the time being. I would consider it one of the harder earphones to get right in this regard. Yep, over the ear would be nice. They do include a clip though which can help considerably with microphonics. The microphonics aren't what I'd consider terrible, not great but not terrible either. I've used much worse and much better. It's sort of middle of the road, so I personally wouldn't really be able to weigh against it.

If there was one thing I'd really gripe about the build quality it would be the tips. The lip is stupid bad and makes it very hard to get the tips on the earphone.

I agree, they're no SE530 or IE8 in terms of build. I also agree that there are budget items out there that are a marvel compared to them (ex. SA6) at a similar or lower street price. It would be nice to see better. Yet at the same time they are not a complete abomination either, and I don't really feel wanting more (other then tips) when using them.

Sound wise, they are dynamics, so I would feel they might sound a bit off new. I bought mine used, so I can't say how they started off. Also the level of detail is high enough that it would be quiet sensitive to this fact. In fact out of everything I've used, I do consider the RE252 one of the most sensitive to external influence for quality of sound (source, amping(influence more then wattage), break in, fitment, etc.). About the only other comparable product would be the UM3X in these terms. They're just so revealing and can reveal crap just as easily as greatness. They can sound very bad to a lot of people simply because the quality of the source information being given. A low grade audio track can make the RE252 sound like a $10 cheapy earphone with a harsh sound, no sound stage, and just plain rough to listen to, more so then any other earphone I've used, but the quality of sound scales linearly with the quality of the source input. With great source information they are brilliant.



p.s. the PFE is an excellent product. I'd love to see Phonak come out with a couple more varieties. I think it's a shame they've stuck to only the one product for so long, as good as it may be.
post #35 of 77
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by dfkt View Post
The RE0 are as-is, I didn't mod them or tinker with them in any way. They have maybe about 100-150 hours on them, only music, no silly forceful "burn-in". I did check them shortly before giving them to james444, and they sounded the same as I remember them back when I reviewed them.

It could indeed be that the Cowon i9 isn't the right match for the RE0. While the Sansa Clip/Clip+ drives them perfectly well, I can't say if Cowons behave the same - since I never use Cowons without an amp.
Nope, it's not the Cowon, I double-checked with the Fuze and the Voyager and there was not much difference. But I should mention the squeakish highs were only apparent with the Mendelssohn Concerto, where the violin climbes to very high notes, not with the other genres. I don't know whether you listen to such music and I wonder if anyone here had a similar experience with classical + RE0. Again, the difference in treble quality to the RE252 is not subtle, it is very obvious.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dfkt View Post
I find the CK10 to have too much treble energy with cymbals, and the CK100 too little of it. Those two AT's are quite weird - especially in their relation to each other, but also price- and armature-count-wise.
So you have reservations about both Audio Technicas? You didn't post much about these, or did I miss something? I reckon the e-Q7 is your favorite out of the three - same here too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dfkt View Post
I absolutely hated the RE252's sound when they were new, but they indeed changed into something a lot better sounding over time. Too bad they're not really usable for my ears, or my overall idea of quality.
Yes, fit is a PITA with these. Wearing them downwards I get horrible microphonics. Wearing them over-ear is possible but looks awkward and those gummy appendices pierce my earlobes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dfkt View Post
FWIW, I would use neither of the phones mentioned in this thread as my daily listening devices - with the exception of the IE8 - but the PFE are quite on top of my list, as far as the IEMs discussed in this thread are concerned.
x2, IE8 comes first for daily listening, then the PFE which are super-comfy IMO. But I wish I could have the RE252 drivers in the PFE's shell.
post #36 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by james444 View Post
So you have reservations about both Audio Technicas? You didn't post much about these, or did I miss something? I reckon the e-Q7 is your favorite out of the three - same here too.
I posted about them willy-nilly (no pun intended ) across several threads, and even in several forums... Let me see if I can find a few of my posts.

Comparison of 35 IEMs (Spreadsheet) - Headphones - abi>>forums
Comparison of 35 IEMs (Spreadsheet) - Headphones - abi>>forums
Comparison of 35 IEMs (Spreadsheet) - Headphones - abi>>forums

Show off your portable audio stuff! (56k warning) - Show Off Your Gear - abi>>forums
Show off your portable audio stuff! (56k warning) - Show Off Your Gear - abi>>forums
Show off your portable audio stuff! (56k warning) - Show Off Your Gear - abi>>forums

http://www.head-fi.org/forums/6449916-post4518.html
http://www.head-fi.org/forums/6477194-post4616.html
http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f15/pi...ml#post6465313

I notice I did use the word "great" in my first post about the CK10, then the word "nice", and so on... in the end, after some longer-time exposure, they got too much treble and not enough bass for my taste, but with an EQ that adds about 9dB at the bottom and subtracts about 4dB at the top, they sound very nice to my ears.

The CK100 on the other hand are rather veiled sounding in comparison, with neither overly much bass nor treble. I wonder if their filters need to be replaced or something along these lines?
post #37 of 77
Thread Starter 
Whoa, my bad! I missed out all the good stuff!
Should have visited ABI more often and looked into this Portable Rig thread here.
BTW great pics, as always!
post #38 of 77
Thread Starter 
Short update, I aquired a Sony A845 lately and while it's a beautifully designed and great sounding DAP, I'm not so convinced by the quality of its EQ. As it is, I cannot EQ the Playaz N1 and Sonia II to sound decently with the Sony, like with the Cowon or rockboxed Fuze. Especially EQing the highs introduces sound degradation and cymbals sound quite coarse.

On auditioning the current Sony lineup in a local shop I realized that EQ is the same on all models, so if you're seriously into EQing, I'd recommend going for Rockbox or a Cowon, not a Sony.
post #39 of 77
I'll burned in the Sonias for over 40 hours now @ James, and they are shining nicely. Treble seems a tad recessed to me (not a big highs guy though, so that's fine), but the bass is really smooth and natural, and the mids are nice (not too forward, but not too recessed). Great value earphone. I'm listening through my uDAC. Now it's time to get some good burn in time on the N1s. By the way, I'm only using the stock black silicon tip on the Sonias. Recommend a better tip?

Oh, I'm listening without eq-ing, but about to explore that now with the iTunes eq in my iMac.
post #40 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by dfkt View Post
the q-Jays (Pianist, I'd love to hear your opinion on the q-Jays, by the way)
One of my favorite IEMs. I especially liked the bass, the detail resolution, the ability to sound great at low volumes and the wonderful musicality that the q-jays have (IMO of course). The bass is probably the best I've heard in an IEM so far, or at least one of the best - very tight, fast, accurate and articulate, and also deep and punchy on demand. My RE0 sounded quite bad in the bass by comparison I must admit. Also, the detail resolution is amazing - again q-jays are one of the best in this regard IMO. They are very sensitive to source quality and recording quality. In some recordings I could hear details with the q-jays which I never heard with any other headphone or IEM. Finally, I also found the q-jays wonderfully musical - they are able to portray atmosphere very, very well and with some atmoshperic 80s pop as well as with some instrumental (especially piano) they sounded better than any other IEM I've heard.

That being said, q-jays have their share of flaws. I find the treble a little grainy and lacking clarity. It is also prone to some nasty sibilance even where there isn't supposed to be any. The upper mids/low treble region is also sort of sucked out, which causes some recordings to sound boring and lifeless through the q-jays. Finally, I find that the sound lacks some depth, but that is only compared to Triple driver BAs or IE8 or e-Q7 - q-jays have great soundstage and image really well for a dual-driver BA IMO.

Overall, I think q-jays are much superior to the Phonak Audeo - they just sound much more involving, musical and natural to my ears, not to mention incomparably more detailed. To be fair, Phonaks do have better treble - more clear and better controlled/more natural, but q-jays win in everything else IMO. Compared to RE0, RE0 has much better upper mids and treble IMO, while q-jays win in the bass and low mids. Compared with the e-Q7, q-jays have similar quality bass and low mids, but e-Q7 has much better upper mids and treble and also much better sense of depth to the sound and a wider soundstage. For mid and bass oriented music, I would take q-jays over the RE0 in a flash and also over the e-Q7 for piano music and some 80s jpop/jdance (lol). For music where treble is most important, I would take RE0. For music where great all around sound is important, I would take e-Q7. And for best vocals and best bass, I would also take the e-Q7. Q-jays do err on some female vocals due to the not so great treble.
post #41 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by james444 View Post
x3. Especially when I think of all the rant going on about the IE8's awful mid-bass hump, and people wanting to sell them because of that. But I believe it has a lot to do with iPods being a very popular source and sadly having the worst EQ of all. IMO Apple did a lot of things right with their DAPs, but implementing a better EQ is long overdue and should be high on their priority list.
You hit the nail on the head with the comment about Apple Ipods. My only real issues with my IE8 is the mid-bass hump, something I can easily adjust on my computer but I'm stuck over EQ'ing music on my Ipod using the Piano EQ setting or the reduce bass EQ setting, or any of the other choices that don't really do the one thing I need to do LOL.

I almost switched to MTP Gold which when played flat has about the best signature I have found bass/midrange/treble wise but then I would have to throw away the IE8's larger soundstage, not to mention taking a financial hit. So in the end I decided to return the MTP Gold and figure out how to use just my IE8. I am now thinking of simply getting an adjustable EQ DAP. BTW if you have not heard the MTP Gold, I think they have the most realistic sounding cymbal recreation I have heard.

For those mentioning amping, I agree that the IE8 and most of the IEM's I have tried really do benefit from an amp as it does help tighten them up.

Finally I have tried to go EQ-less, but like you James I find I just short change myself when I do. Having said that, I find EQ'ing down settings (reducing what is present in an IEM) works very well as compared to EQ'ing up settings (trying to add what doesn't necessarily exist in an IEM) which is not always as successfull.

Great writeup BTW
post #42 of 77
Many Thanks James, this thread inspired me to try another DAP other than my Ipod Touch. After some reading I decided on a Sansa Fuze and got lucky as I found a for sale sign at a local retail store that was expired but still on the floor, so they honored the price and I got an 8GB unit for $79 versus $99. I am using it in it's regular format but may decide to rockbox it after I read more about that.

In it's default configuration with no EQ I actually like my IE8 mostly so far (still a bit to much bass) but find the EQ a bit limiting in how it works. So out of curiosity would rockboxing this give me a much better EQ capability and does it change the nice airy open sound of the Fuze? I will take a stroll over to the appropraite forum for answers as well but thought I would start with a quick question here.

I have to say though for the cost of this player and investment of my IE8, this is a cheap alternative to selling the IE8 for a big loss and having to pay another swack of dough on another high end IEM. Very good investment and it doesn't hurt that I already had an 8GB MicroSDHC card available to use. The sound is good enough I almost wish my wife had got me this for Christmas a couple years ago, as it has better sound and is less than 1/4 the cost.
post #43 of 77
^ just fyi, if you do get a fuze do know that only v1 can be rockboxed right now but since you bought it from a store my guess would be v2. v2 sometime in the future but no idea when that is.
post #44 of 77
I can't imagine the SE530 sounding better than the orto's in any circumstance, In fact after I owned the orto's a short while, I just had to sell the shure's I could no longer stand them......of course that's just me.
post #45 of 77
yup V2, just figured that out , but have to say I am playing with the EQ and it's not as bad as I initially thought. What happened was as soon as I turned on any setting in the EQ it reduced the volume (alot) but after I adjusted the volume back I can now adjust the EQ and it no longer has the effect on the volume, just the desired EQ settings. So I will play with this. I am going to compare this to my wifes E series Sony but I have a feeling I am going to stongly prefer the Fuze. I will post back if I prefer the Sony. In any case it beats the pants off my Ipod Touch for music.
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