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IEM - Shootout

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
Hello everybody.
Based on the fantastic reviewers here on head-fi.org I thought I would give a little back to those wondering which are the current best value($$) headphones on sound quality alone.
I want to thank ClieOS whose reviews on his page really inspired me to find a great pair of headphones. However, in this day and age one must also evaluate for themselves in finding their nirvana sound. Based on my listening tests I can now vouch for ClieOS reviews and hope this helps others make an easier decision

Today I am reviewing the following 5 headphones:
(Note: All have had at least 30+hrs burn-in some more than others)

1. Head-Direct/Hi-Fi Man RE0
2. Fischer Audio Eterna
3. Apple Earbuds
4. V-Sonic R02ProII
5. Apple IEM Headphones

I also have the Etymotic ER6i's but did not include these in review as I don't really like their comfort and sound any more.

Apple Ipod 5G Video Fw 1.2.1 (JB)
Apple Ipod 1G Touch Fw 3.1.2 (JB)

1. HiFiMan/Headirect REO

Well what can I say that has not been said already. Clean neutral, preciseness the adjectives speak for themselves. This is a most refined and beautiful device. Initially it sounded extremely lightweight in the bass and also the impedance? or sensitivity seem to be poorly matched with the above Ipod's.. but give it some time and I mean a good 10/20+ hrs and the little canal phones really start to loosen up and become more complete. On my Ipod touch where the slider bar is the volume Bar think 8 or 9 on the scale to get these things to rox and be as loud as the others. At first I thought I may need amplification for these canalpphones but after some burn-in and probably with more time these have really started to sing in all frequencies department. The focus towards resolution is a clear winner with these. It's not so much warmth or oomph but more so presentation. It really does provide the most cleanest and precise sound I have heard in a pair of earphones. If anything the bottom end is there but not so overwhelming as the top and mid-range ends which really sing and dominate these headphones.

Top End - A+
Mid Range - A+
Bottom End - B
Soundstage - B
Warmth - C
Resolution - A+

Next up
2. Fischer Audio - Eternas

Now, I never realised that this brand existed until discovering HiFi.org ClieOS praise for these headphones and it is well deserved too. At first when these arrived I had some hesitation about their size and comfort but after a while they are like they are not there. These babies literally float in the ear and have such a non-presence it's like they are part of your ear i.e. you can't even tell you are wearing headphones (IEM). This is something not many reviewers have picked up on after many hours of listening. Maybe it's my ear canals but these are very lightweight and mould to the ear perfectly. Just remember to curl the cable around the ear.
Now onto the music.
These have a great bottom end which if inserted rather deep can accentuate the bass. So do wiggle them around in the ear until you find that sweet spot. On the Ipod touch I found the volume scale at around 5 or 6 to be the sweet spot.. easy to drive canaphones. Now what really makes these babies sing is their soundstage. It really fires out at least a feet or two from outside your head in the soundstage. That for me makes them special. I have only heard such a soundstage on my Grado SR80's and it is to be commended that this can be achieved in IEM. There is so much air in the eterna's it's not funny. The air allows you to focus on the band/music/instrument and where it is positioned in the soundstage. This makes the music more enjoyable to listen for hours upon hours. These headphones also have warmth and presence. They have a great all-round style of music with a more focused bottom end style of boominess. This boomines doesn;t mask the mid and top like other canalphones. They don't seem to need much burn-in either . These headphone would be ideal for long -distance travels and more akin to a go-get-some punk rocker. It is also good with electronic bass sounds and really make the listening sessions highly enjoyable and memorable.

Top End - B
Mid Range - A
Bottom End - A+
Soundstage - A+
Warmth - A
Resolution - B

3. Apple Earbuds

Surprisingly an amazing set of headphones. You wouldn't guess it but these ones have around 250hrs on them and are really good. I am not sure whether people have received fakes or their Apple earbuds haven't been burnt in but these headphones go a long way to achieving some of that audiophile nirvana we audiophiles crave. Where they really shine is in the top and mid range. The bottom is there but it is not boominess. It is more tactile and has presence. From what I have heard they tend to round-off the bottom end with a slight hollowness in the mid-range. The top end is free of sibilance and has such an air of smoothness it is truly amazing. This could be due to the large diaphragm size transducer. From memory these have a plastic size cone/diaphragm which oscillates and being very thin would ideally suit the high frequencies which it does so excel in.

Top End - A+
Mid Range - B
Bottom End - C
Soundstage - B+
Warmth - B
Resolution - A

4. V-Sonic R02ProII

Surprisingly this is an earphone not much reviewed here on these forums. I am not sure why this is the case maybe market location but where I am from they are freely available and I managed to pick-up about 3 units of these at a bargain price. I still have 2 units sealed in their boxes never opened. Anyhow onto the music. On the impedance match we are at around 6 on the Ipod volume dial... an easy driver. These have an excellent mid-range but a poor top end. Their bass is quite boomy and has presence(aliveness). They also seem to have a neutrality from the bottom end towards the mid-range and then cut off the top end. This creates a sort of hollowness to the top end sound. Their soundstage is good but not on par with the Eternas. I had enjoyed these canalphones for quite some time but always craved the Apple earbuds for there excellent top end resolution. In some ways these go a long way to making the sound quite enjoyable but enjoyable is all it is. It is not a refined or unique pair of heaphones...ie. it does not do anything spectacularly well but it certainly gives a nice warm sound with a little more bass and lower mid-range. Vocals are poor on both male and female voices, like a veil is present.

Top End - C
Mid Range - B
Bottom End - A-
Soundstage - B+
Warmth - B
Resolution - C

5. Apple Inner-Ear Earbuds ** See below post with updated Apple flange use**

I bought these a year or so ago when they first came out thinking these must be great with dual-drivers(think apple earbuds review above). Let me be honest with you in one word: "bass heavy" especially with etymotic dual flange (see photo)
The factory earbuds on the other hand are not too bad acoustically but they don't seal well within the ear canal. Onto the sound. These have extremely bloated bass with etymotic dual flange and very little mid-range or top end(more muffled or muted). This could be due to the etymotic earbuds?? (NOW CONFIRMED) Even with the factory earbuds they now limit the bass and generally put out an ok mid-range and so-so top end. On the volume dial I was at 5 on the ipod touch so easy to drive. The more I listen the more I realise how poor these things really are (especially with etymotic dual flange) and (generally ok with standard tips). For what they cost I have never been able to be happy with them sound wise...

With Etymotic dual flange** see below posts with stock flange review
Top End - C
Mid Range - C
Bottom End - B -- (too boomy awash with fat horrible excess bass masking all other frequencies.)
Soundstage - B
Warmth - B
Resolution - C

Well that is it for now . In the photo below you will see my ranking order of these headphones From L - R (Left being best to R being worst). I really love the FA-eterna's sound of warmth and huge soundstage yet I also like the RE0's amazing grasp on resolution. I may give it to the eternas as they have better impedance match with the Ipod touch unit.. and this is helpful when out and about but at night time in quiet room I will resort to the RE0's absolutely. They both really punch above their weight with portable music players and this is really refreshing. The apple earbuds also do a surprising job of conveying the music in a simple sort of way. I sure hope this helps others purchase a great set of earphones for their portable music players.

Happy listening
post #2 of 11
You might have gotten a fake ADDIEM because the bass is supposed to be anything but bloated.
post #3 of 11
I'm afraid your ADDIEMs are fake. All three genuine units I've tried have had no bass at all.
post #4 of 11
Thread Starter 
Not quite...

When I use the factory earbuds there is no bass. When using the dual flange etymotic there is wallops of bass perhaps too much. Will give them a listen with stock earbud and report back.

With stock earbuds bass is recessed and limited and mids speak out a lot more. The top end is lacking detail not much hiss/detail and midrange is warm smooth and light. With these stock earbuds the canals have to be pushed in quite a bit to get a good seal.

**Update Apple Inner-Ear buds with stock flange/earbud review:

Top End - B (not much detail present)
Mid Range - A (smooth and warm)
Bottom End - C
Soundstage - B
Warmth - A
Resolution - C+

Certainly a big difference on what flange you use. Obviously the stock flange has a relatively flat warm smooth sound with an inherent lack of bass obvious kinda anaemic. Strange how the etymotic flange's flood it with bass but I think this now addresses the ADDIEM sound signature.
post #5 of 11
I also don't find the description (even revised) familiar. I find stock ADDIEMs have too much top end(thin), laid back mids and somewhat vague bass regardless of tips. That said, the pair I tweeked are now quite balanced and rythmic. More bass and better balanced than PL50s but a hair less clean sounding though I always felt that the PL50 was almost too clean. ADDIEM's stock rear vent is too big and they need a bit of filter in the tube. Olives work well. I couldn't have used the ADDIEM as purchased and was surprised based on their reviews here. Had ordered HF2s right after getting these for the reasons described but the seller backed out which worked for me as I'm now good until I find my nirvana.

Joker, If you want to hear these for kicks after I get back from vacation in a month, I'll send them to you for fun. Only tough part is getting the vent right. It's a really touchy balance between balance, boogie and extension depending on very small changes in hole size. PM if you want to try for yourself and I'll describe more clearly.
post #6 of 11
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by goodvibes View Post
I also don't find the description (even revised) familiar. I find stock ADDIEMs have too much top end(thin), laid back mids and somewhat vague bass regardless of tips.
Well the etymotic earbuds dual flange to me give a huge bass and sonically flooded the rest of the audio spectrum. On placing the stock earbud I agree with your viewpoint on vague bass(agreed). The top end from what I heard is quite lacking compared to the other better models in this shootout and the mid-range is quite smooth and consistent(overall v.good).
I have yet to try other buds with the ADDIEM so can't comment but what I will say is that change the buds with these and expect a rather dramatic black/white sound.

Maybe a tri-flange or single flange etymotic will go well with it? I will report on this soon.
post #7 of 11
Are the screens removable and if so, clean? That just doesn't seem right.
post #8 of 11

Apple earbuds, really?

the thread title is IEM - In Ear Monitor, I'd like to highlight that: Monitor

I'm going to dig out my pair again, but as far as I remember they have nothing on the head-direct you reviewed, or for example the PFE 112

Edited by nezhac - 6/5/12 at 7:10am
post #9 of 11

Sorry but gotta call you out for resurrecting an over two year old necro-thread that only had 7 posts back then to point out one of them is not actually an in-earsmile.gif.

post #10 of 11
Originally Posted by jant71 View Post

Sorry but gotta call you out for resurrecting an over two year old necro-thread that only had 7 posts back then to point out one of them is not actually an in-earsmile.gif.

Picky Picky Picky...

post #11 of 11

Good point, I'm not in the habit of reading dates on posts,

I guess I'll just keep quiet then :P

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