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Am I deaf? My A/Bing of several high end earphones

post #1 of 39
Thread Starter 

To begin, I own a Shure E2c and RE0. I bought the RE0 due to the rave reviews around here. I wasn't that impressed. It sounded like a more refined E2c, especially the treble (of course). I don't find my E2c to sound horrendously bad even after months of using them and suddenly switching them back. Also, I can't tell the difference between MP3 and lossless, even with a RE0. I thought I must be either deaf or got a bad RE0. 

 

I needed new tips for my RE0. Since foam don't last nearly long enough, I decided that triple flange tips are the next best isolators. So today I went to my local audio shop to buy some Shure triple flange tips for my RE0. It turns out it didn't fit. So I thought to myself, I can't just waste 30 minutes coming here. Since they have a demo model of every single earphone/headphone they sell, I decided to have some fun and try out some high end buds.

 

I listened to the entire Shure line except the SE420 and the IE8. Here are my impressions. The Archos 5 is the source for all these earphones. It has iPod level sound quality.

 

SE115: Sounded slightly worse than the E2c but with much more bass.

 

SE210: Surprisingly, they sounded terrible, worse than the SE115. The sound is so harsh, and sounded really dry. I don't know why the SE210 is so bad.

 

SE310: Much better. The clarity is all around better. But as always the treble is recessed. Good bass, good, forward midrange. 

 

SE530: Now this is what I was waiting for. First of all, they're sensitive. Immediately I had to lower the volume. The SE530 has a very forward, warm midrange sound. They are bassy. The treble, as always, is laid back and recessed. 

 

I was not impressed. I was expecting the SE530 to sound amazing, considering its price tag. It didn't blow me away, or my RE0. You can't compare the RE0 to the SE530 because they're so different. The SE530 has a predominate bass + midrange sound, where the RE0's treble just shines. 

 

Now I know why the RE0 is so highly regarded here. The sound quality is excellent (compared to the SE530 and IE8). The treble is truly superb. Even though the RE0 sounds excellent, I really wished it had more bass. Yes, the bass is ample, in a quiet room. I use them in a subway, and the background noise just drowns all the bass out.

 

Now, unimpressed, I decided to try the IE8. The IE8 is much better sounding (to me at least) than the SE530. It is a fun sounding earphone with the amount of bass it has. The treble is much more pronounced and detailed than the SE530, but not as good as the RE0. The midrange, not SE530 good, but still very good. 

 

Now back to my RE0 impression. I said the fact that the RE0 didn't impress me is either I'm deaf or I have a bad RE0. Now I know I don't have a bad RE0. So am I deaf? The main reason I ask is because I can't hear the difference between MP3 and lossless. 128Kbps (or V5, using LAME's highest quality mode), sounds transparent to me. They sound transparent to me on a RE0, SE530 and IE8. Yes, I can hear a slight difference, but I have to carefully listen for it. In a double blind test I honestly couldn't tell which one is which. I thought you can easily tell the difference between a 128Kbps MP3 and lossless with high end earphones, but even with the detail maniac RE0 I can't hear a difference. How is that possible? I don't have exceptional hearing (of course), but I don't have bad hearing either. I listen to my music pretty quietly (around 60-65dB). What's wrong?

 

Now I think about it, I really should have tried some UEs and the Klipsch X5. 


Edited by chengbin - 6/11/10 at 5:37pm
post #2 of 39

Maybe it's the music you listen to? Signal quality loss is related to the source signal, sometimes the loss is not that high at all, while the same bit rate can have intolerable distortion/loss for other signals. This is why VBR is more efficient than CBR compression.

 

As my conclusion, I don't think you are deaf.

post #3 of 39
Thread Starter 

Would you consider uploading a sample of a song that you consider the difference between MP3 and lossless is easily heard? If you can't, name the song, and I'll see if I have it. 

 

I mostly listen to pop music, with some hip hop/rap, and some rock. 

 

The songs I've tried to hear the MP3 vs lossless difference are

 

Linkin Park - Numb

Kelly Clarkson - Breakaway

Mariah Carey - We Belong Together

Train - Drops of Jupiter

Seal - Kiss From a Rose

Usher - Yeah

 

These songs are compared with a RE0 and a Creative Xtrememusic card. 

post #4 of 39

Lol, I must have gotten a defective RE0 as well.

 

Not everyone here thinks it's anything more (or less) than a heavily-promoted FOTM.

 

But everyone hears sound differently, and many are enamored of the RE0, so good for them.

 

I liked my RE1 better, and there must be a reason Head-Direct charges 2.5x more for the RE252.

 

At least mine also had a physical defect, so it was easy to return

post #5 of 39

IMO, almost all iem's need some type of plug modification for the proper fit. Or foamies you replace every couple of months . All the rubber plugs that shipped with my E2c didn't fit my ear canal. I custom fabbed Sony ones to fit. From my experience, for a standard iem bud, Sony has the softest rubber tips. The original E2c's were at the time excellent, mellow and bassy, but the budget iem market is now filled with other worthy competitors.

 

The Shure SE530's are reference iem's, and follow the vein of monitor loudspeakers (such as Tannoy or Dynaudio). It's not an exciting sound, it's a flat sound. Resolving, dynamic, sensitive. A trained ear and as StrongMind wrote,good source material, helps separate the good from the not so good headphones.

 

post #6 of 39

its the people who can find any headphone to sound good that are deaf.  all headphones sound horrible.  i can't listen to anything that has more than +/- 3db response irregularity and not hear it.

 

well, that comes form listening on nearfield studio monitors all the time with +/- 1.5 db response.

 

most headphones are +/- 15 db or so which is about as pleasant as getting stabbed with an ice pick, and there is not much difference between different ones.  its like making a choice - do you want to be stabbed in your right shoulder or your left one ?

 

well, i have never heard STAX so maybe those are good.  i am pretty sure i could EQ them to my liking.

 

unfortunately even if you are like me - a DIY speaker builder, chances are you will NOT be able to enjoy speakers most of the time because of neighbors, family and poor room acoustics.  nearfield monitors do away with room acoustics for the most part ( except bass ) but they leave you tied to your desktop.  and then you can't have bass.

 

so yeah.  actually my favorite place to listen is the car - on the stock sound system.  it has the best sound of all.  not as clean as nearfield monitors but with much more accurate bass.

 

headphones can sound good with TONS and i mean TONS of DSP EQ.  but its so much hassle might as well just forget about it and let the brain compensate for the deficiencies.

 

all headphone tests should AB not to another headphone but to a nice $10,000 studio monitor.

 

after years of trying to find headphones that sound good i am now only concerned with headphones that are comfortable, don't have PAINFUL levels of high frequency resonances ( most do, but especially ones that get good reviews ) and have enough bass ( most do not, especially ones that get good reviews ).  headphones that sound good ( STAX aside ) don't exist - i know that now.

 

also i have noticed that the better reviewed the headphone the worse it sounds.  stock iPhone earbuds sound better than most full-size sennheiser headphones.  but this doesn't mean that cheaper cans sound better - not at all !  it just means that audiophiles prefer the sound of cans that have no bass whatsoever and horrendous screeching broken-glass treble sound.

 

audiophiles think when bass doesn't exist it makes it "tight" and "fast" and when treble has 30 decibel peaks that will slice through your cochlea like a chainsaw through butter that it is "detailed".  oh well.

 

anybody who doesn't own studio monitors or doesn't know what "house curve" is and what its used for should not even be allowed to offer opinion on matters of "accuracy" in sound.


Edited by g1981c - 6/11/10 at 9:48pm
post #7 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by tschanrm View Post

 

The Shure SE530's are reference iem's, and follow the vein of monitor loudspeakers (such as Tannoy or Dynaudio). It's not an exciting sound, it's a flat sound. Resolving, dynamic, sensitive. A trained ear and as StrongMind wrote,good source material, helps separate the good from the not so good headphones.

 

 

you're kidding right ?  have you ever seen the response graphs of studio monitors ?  if you think a studio monitor with response graph of Shure could sell for even ONE DOLLAR i have a bridge i would like to sell you in Brooklyn ...

 

this is what studio monitor response looks like:

 

http://elektro80.electro-music.com/articlepix/asp8_chart_freq.png

 

DO YOU NOTICE THE DIFFERENCE:

 

graphCompare.php

 

i'll give you a hint - one is off by over 40 decibels at the top register.  another is spot on.  40 decibels is only a factor of TEN THOUSAND.  very minor ;)  surely it must be inaudible !  AHAHAHAHHAAHHA ! ! ! 

 

if i was going to go by graphs i would say HD650 and IE8 have the best behaved response graphs.  but they are not in studio monitor territory either.


Edited by g1981c - 6/11/10 at 10:09pm
post #8 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by tschanrm View Post

The Shure SE530's are reference iem's, and follow the vein of monitor loudspeakers (such as Tannoy or Dynaudio). It's not an exciting sound, it's a flat sound. Resolving, dynamic, sensitive. A trained ear and as StrongMind wrote,good source material, helps separate the good from the not so good headphones.

 


I'm sorry, people can refer to 530's and Dyn's as 'flat' all they want.  If they are flat it is unnaturally so.  The recessed treble to me sounds nothing like the real world as I hear it.  I don't think 'flat' should be the audiophile standard if it doesn't portray accurate, natural sound.  I've had this argument many times at CES and with some self avowed audiophiles that own and run some well known audio shops.  Not my intent to start a flame here, just tossing out my 2 cents for the OP.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by g1981c View Post

 

so yeah.  actually my favorite place to listen is the car - on the stock sound system.  it has the best sound of all.  not as clean as nearfield monitors but with much more accurate bass.

 


I actually agree w/ most everything in your post.  As someone who spent years working w/ people in Car audio and sound competitions I would only agree w/ your statement about stock car audio and bass if I were restricted to only BA drivers.  Some of the new dynamic drivers are way better than 90% of most stock car audio set up for bass accuracy and representation.  You driving a Lexus w/ a Mark Levinson system?  I do think you over generalized the sonic character of most well reviewed phones.  I am a bit jaded w/ Sennheiser as well, seems to me the Senns I heard 20 years ago were better than a lot of their newer stuff to my ears.  


Edited by Anaxilus - 6/11/10 at 10:07pm
post #9 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by Anaxilus View Post
You driving a Lexus w/ a Mark Levinson system?   

 

no i have harman logic 7 system in my car.
 

post #10 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by g1981c View Post



 

no i have harman logic 7 system in my car.
 

 

Benz? I heard a new Harmon system in an S-Class 2 years ago at CES.  Sounded pretty decent.  The best Car audio car I have ever heard was an old Benz customer car that Alpine had redone w/ F#1 status all around.  Pre DVD Audio HU.  Amazing, still sends shivers down my spine.
 


Edited by Anaxilus - 6/11/10 at 10:10pm
post #11 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by Anaxilus View Post



 

Benz?
 


BMW.

 

it was a "premium" optional sound system.  i don't know what the base one sounds like.

 

ok enough trolling for today.  guys help me pick IEMs for my bicycle riding ( i have 3 threads open on it ).


Edited by g1981c - 6/11/10 at 10:12pm
post #12 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by g1981c View Post

 

ok enough trolling for today.  guys help me pick IEMs for my bicycle riding ( i have 3 threads open on it ).


How about the ones in your Avatar? When I bike I prefer my customs, because they never fall out.

post #13 of 39

To the OP, do try some Comply TX400 with your RE0.

post #14 of 39
Thread Starter 

So is it possible that some people just can't hear the fine detail in the music to tell the difference between MP3 and lossless (or one high end  earphone to another)?

 

@ClieOS, the comply tips are too expensive at $31 (or $20 on eBay) for a 3 pair pack. If it is a one time investment, sure. But a 3 pair pack only last around half a year is too short. 


Edited by chengbin - 6/12/10 at 8:09am
post #15 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by chengbin View Post

So is it possible that some people just can't hear the fine detail in the music to tell the difference between MP3 and lossless (or one high end  earphone to another)?


A/B'ing a Lame APS encoded MP3 and a FLAC encoded file is difficult. Recorded hand clapping is the easiest one to A/B due to MP3's pre-echo. I haven't visited Hydrogen Audio in a long time, but back in the LAME 3.90 days there would be lots of A/B testers for MP3 vs Lossless. They used to be posted at http://www.rjamorim.com/ (now dead link).

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